By Yan Gu, Summer Intern

The United States and China agreed upon a multi-faceted climate plan to curb GHG emission at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) on July 10, 2013. The plan was designed by the U.S.-China Working Group on Climate Change, which was established pursuant to a Joint Statement from both governments in April 2013. It is led by the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, and the Vice Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua.

The U.S. and China together account for around 45% of the world’s annual GHG emissions; the two countries thus bear much of the global responsibility for the changing climate. The Working Group’s Report first took stock of existing cooperative efforts between the two countries and found a breadth of joint programs and projects. Recognizing the enormous potential to deepen those collaborative actions, the Working Group recommended five key initiatives, which will be implemented to facilitate large-scale cooperative efforts and domestic actions beginning in October 2013. These new initiatives include:

  • Reducing emissions from heavy-duty and other vehicles
  • Increasing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)
  • Increasing energy efficiency in buildings, industry, and transport
  • Improving greenhouse gas data collection and management
  • Promoting smart grids

Both sides will gain sustainable economic growth from these low carbon developments on the basis of existing domestic policy and bilateral collaboration. Moreover, China will particularly benefit from reducing its air pollution and thereby improving public health through reducing emissions from heavy-duty and other vehicles.

The five-initiative plan directly followed a recent bilateral meeting in June 2013 in which presidents Obama and Xi agreed that the two countries will work together to phase down the production and consumption of HFC on both sides of the Pacific.

Though the agreement is non-binding, collaboration in climate strategy between U.S. and China is likely to spur a global response to come up with new efforts to combat climate change through enhancing domestic actions. Through October 2013, specific implementation plans regarding each of the five initiatives will be worked out. The Working Group will ensure that these are implemented with the involvement of large companies and non-governmental organizations.

Domestically, both countries have adopted laws or regulations addressing climate change. President Obama’s new climate policy announced in late June signaled the Administration’s commitment to regulating power plants, further promoting renewable energy, and increasing energy efficiency. China has enacted a renewable energy act and an energy conservation law which provide mid-to-long-term targets for shifting to clean energy and sustainable development. The five-initiative plan is another important step in furthering these domestic agendas, and, hopefully, greater world action.

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