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US, China to talk energy, climate this week

09 Jul 2013 19:34 (+01:00 GMT)

Washington, 9 July (Argus) — Climate change and energy security will be near the top of the agenda as the US and China hold high-level talks in Washington, DC, this week.

The fifth Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED) between the two countries kicks off tomorrow, with “special sessions” on climate and energy, scheduled to be co-chaired by secretary of state John Kerry and Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi.

While the Obama administration noted the attention being given the issues, it downplayed the possibility of any major announcements at the conclusion of the two-day talks, which will cover a wide range of issues. The two sides are looking for ways to show more cooperation on climate, a senior administration official said.

“We want to demonstrate to the world that the two largest economies in the world can cooperate,” the official said, adding that the US and China hope to cite “concrete examples of our cooperation to reduce emissions.”

Previous S&ED talks have usually only resulted in the countries re-affirming their intent to work together, along with agreements between US and Chinese energy companies to work on technologies that could help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

But some are hoping for something at least a little more substantial that can build on recent progress and President Barack Obama's recent speech outlining a plan to reduce US GHG emissions by 17pc from 2005 levels by 2020. In April, the countries formed a new Climate Change Working Group they said would accelerate cooperation on climate and help prepare for this week's talks. Last month, Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent GHG. The agreement could reduce the equivalent of 86bn metric tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

“I think this is going to be a particularly interesting strategic and economic dialogue,” said Deborah Seligsohn, an adviser to the World Resources Institute's China program.

While she does not expect a major breakthrough at the talks, Seligsohn said there is a “new energy” in the countries' handling of climate policy that could lead to “interesting” outcomes this week.

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