John Kerry made climate change a centerpiece of his first Asia tour as Secretary of State over the weekend, signing agreements with both Japan and China for cooperation in implementing practical measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreements with both nations stressed practical measures available for reducing greenhouse gases, largely ignoring the contentious United Nations process for hammering out an international climate change agreement that has to date fallen far short of its goal.
China and the United States represent the two largest carbon emitting nations and analysts have said the agreement between the two nations could mark a significant move forward and put China and the US at the "center of serious clean energy work."
"China and the United States represent the world's two biggest economies, we represent the world's two largest consumers of energy, and we represent the two largest emitters of global greenhouse gases," said Kerry in a statement. "So if any two nations come to this table with an imperative for action, it is us.
What the United States and China decide to do with respect to this, whatever energy initiative we embrace together ... the two largest economies in the world will send a signal to the world about how serious we are about this," he said.
Encouraging sign for climate action
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed cautious optimism over the weekend, saying the new agreement "raises expectations that both the United States and China will move forcefully to confront the threats of climate change," adding that the "proof will be in the pudding" over what happens next.
The next step comes at a high-level meeting in July of the Strategic and Economic Dialog, where climate change will be high on the agenda. At the meeting US Special Envy for Climate Change Tod Stern will lead the climate change working group alongside his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. The two leaders are charged with "identifying new areas for concrete, cooperative action to foster green and low-carbon economic growth, including through the use of public-private partnerships, where appropriate."
China and the US released a joint statement referring to the unique position of climate leadership held by the two nations:
"The United States of America and the People's Republic of China recognise that the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative."
In a similar fashion, Japan and the US have agreed to new bilateral talks exploring a "range of climate issues."
Treaty? We dont' need no stinkin' treaty
Underscoring the need for international climate cooperation beyond the formal ongoing negotiations within the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Climate Policy Initiative released a report today calledThe Policy Climate. The report gives an overview of global policy issues relevant to global warming, asserting that "implementation of policy relevant to climate change, and its impact, accelerated markedly over the last decade, despite the slow pace of international climate change negotiations."
Perhaps the new pledges Secretary of State Kerry signed with Japan and China will continue to push forward international climate cooperation, even without an international treaty through the UNFCCC.
The proof is in the pudding.
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Image credit: chinadialogue.net, courtesy flickr