US-China Memorandum on Climate Change a Positive Sign for Copenhagen Talks

  • Published on August 1st, 2009

During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to China an agreement to boost cooperation in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy was signed. The climate change agreement will also ensure that two of the world’s largest polluters continue engage in dialogue and finally reach an agreement on reducing carbon emissions.


Secretary Clinton emphasized on the importance of the deal by pointing out that any positive decisions and policy agreements made during the subsequent talks between the two countries could significantly influence the pace of international climate deal negotiations.

The deal holds great significance since the developing countries are looking at the United States to take some bold measures in order to reduce its carbon emissions and promise climate aid to poor and developing countries at the December scheduled Copenhagen Talks. Developed countries, including the United States, maintains that China being the largest greenhouse gas emitter should agree to some emissions reductions too.

The possibility of an international agreement on significant reduction of carbon emissions seems remote given the fact that developed and developing countries are in a deadlock over who takes the burden of emissions reductions and by how much.

Although China showed some signs of cooperation by indicating that it would consider sectoral emission reductions to make its most polluting industries carbon efficient, the contentious issue of technology transfer remains unresolved. China has demanded that the United States provides it with some of the advanced and more efficient technologies but the United States seems reluctant given its regulatory hurdles and political apprehensions.

Nonetheless there have been small but crucial advancements in US-Sino relations as far as green technology and climate change in concerned. The two countries signed a deal to foster collaboration and partnership in the development of improved, more efficient building designs as well as sustainable communities that rely on greater use of renewable energy. Concentrated efforts by diplomats to make progress on the emission reduction issue have yielded positive results in that China has agreed to consider sectoral emission cuts.

China has risen as a major center of renewable energy growth with projects worth billions in various stages of execution. The United States, however, has been finding it difficult to build a political consensus over the issue of emission reduction and expansion of renewable energy.

Many experts believe that a agreement between these two global powers is the only real chance of success the Copenhagen Talks have. Hopefully the leaders of both the countries would agree to some sort of deal which would propel an international agreement on climate change this December.

Photo: yunheisapunk (Creative Commons)

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.


  • "US-China Memorandum on Climate Change a Positive Sign for Copenhagen Talks" – great optimistic title for an article, but (tragically) completely misleading. There is no way the Copenhagen talks can succeed (unless they fail, but are declared a success), because any carbon diet strategy would be dependent upon clean coal:

    "The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not "may be coal-fired"; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence." –"Breaking the Climate Deadlock," Tony Blair, June 26, 2008

    But, Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba, has estimated that capturing and burying just 10 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted over a year from coal-fire plants at current rates would require moving volumes of compressed carbon dioxide greater than the total annual flow of oil worldwide — a massive undertaking requiring decades and trillions of dollars. "Beware of the scale," he stressed."

    "The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state." –Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

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