World's Biggest Polluters Strike a Deal: U.S. and China Agree to Comprehensive Clean Energy and Climate Plan

The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than anticipated.

"Very exciting day here in Beijing.  There's enormous interest in both governments in working together to fight climate change.  The package announced today is far-reaching and can make a real difference in cutting emissions.”

That's an exclusive quote from David Sandalow, DOE's Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, who just emailed me from China about the newly announced U.S.-China cooperation plan.  Sandalow is going to be in Copenhagen, so I hope to have a real interview with him then.  For details on this plan (with links) and what it means, here is analysis by Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong of the Center for American Progress.  Note that the deal goes beyond "obvious" areas like efficiency and renewables to include things like shale gas, which appears to exist in abundance in China and could allow repowering of existing Chinese coal plants and more rapid medium-term reductions than people have thought possible.

This morning, a comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than we had anticipated and contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:


1.  Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  A memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China's National Development and Reform Commission sets out avenues for collaboration on capacity building in climate change, with an initial focus on helping China to develop a robust, transparent and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

2.Joint Clean Energy Research Center. Originally announced this July, more details were provided on the joint center that will "facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country."  Financial support from public and private sources of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries, will be provided.  The Center's research will initially focus on building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. (Factsheet)

3.  Electric Vehicles. Those initiative will "include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects."  (Factsheet)

4.Energy Efficiency. Building on the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation, government officials of both countries will "work together and with the private sector to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems, benchmark industrial energy efficiency, train building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities, harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy efficient consumer products, [and] exchange best practices in energy efficient labeling systems." (Factsheet)

5.  Renewable Energy.   The two countries will develop roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment in both countries.  The Partnership will also provide technical and analytical resources to states and regions in both countries to support renewable energy deployment and will facilitate state-to-state and region-to-region partnerships to share experience and best practices.  (Factsheet)

6.  21st Century Coal. The two countries will "launch a program of technical cooperation to bring teams of U.S. and Chinese scientists and engineers together in developing clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies."  The Presidents also welcomed a package of announcements on public-private partnerships in advanced coal technologies. (Factsheet)

7.  Shale Gas. Under a new Shale Gas Initiative, the U.S. and China will "use experience gained in the United States to assess China's shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops." (Factsheet)

8.  Nuclear.  The two countries reaffirmed the goals of the recently-concluded Third Executive Committee Meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to promote the peaceful use of civilian nuclear energy, and " agreed to consult with one another in order to explore such approaches—including assurance of fuel supply and cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power while minimizing the risks of proliferation."

9.  Public-private partnerships on clean energy. A new U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP) will "leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations."  The ECP, consisting of at least 22 founding member companies, will work on collaborative projects in renewable energy, smart grid, clean transportation, green building, clean coal, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.

In a joint statement, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao agreed on a common approach to achieve a successful outcome in international climate negotiations (emphasis added in bold):

Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments.

In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementationof mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support.

Taken together, these commitments and statements represent an important step forward towards agreeing on a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of China's policies for achieving the necessary emissions reductions that science requires. They will also hopefully start to satisfy those skeptical that China will agree to a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of its impressive array of policies for achieving emissions reductions.

The announcements also suggest that the United States and China are on the same page when it comes to both the necessity of aggressively moving forward on an affirmative agenda to reduce carbon pollution and create millions of new clean energy jobs. The agreement contains concrete measures for sustained and meaningful collaboration and demonstrates that the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases are prepared to move beyond the tired narrative of developed versus developing country responsibilities on climate action toward a more "positive, cooperative, and comprehensive" relationship on clean energy and climate change.

We hope that the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen will follow this example and focus as much on bottom-up technological strategies for achieving real reductions in emissions as it will on top-down targets for carbon caps.

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