S&ED yields 'constructive' climate talks, no agreement
By Xin Zhiming (
Updated: 2009-07-28 15:56

Washington: China and US conducted in-depth discussions on climate change and clean energy on the first day of high level talks here, but there was no major breakthrough or agreement, US officials said.

Describing the talks as “constructive” and “useful”, they said at a news briefing that the discussion will still help them reach an agreement in the future on carbon emissions and clean energy technology transfers.

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"[Discussion of climate change] is only one element, but is perhaps the most critical element,” said Todd Stern, US Special Envoy for Climate Change Issues. “We’ve discussed a range of other issues with them (Chinese officials), but that’s probably the heart of it.”

"With respect to prospects, we’re slogging ahead. [But] I think that we will get there. I think we will end up with an agreement,” he said. “I think it’s going to come one step at a time, one meeting at a time, one conversation at a time, and not in some sudden fell swoop or sudden breakthrough.” Stern said the two parties discussed financing and technology transfers that will be needed to provide assistance to developing countries so that they can start to build a low-carbon path.

He also acknowledged China’s commitment to the issue. “They (Chinese policymakers) do see this as an issue that is of very significant importance … just as a substantive matter, but also of real importance in the US-China bilateral relationship.”

In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December in Copenhagen, Denmark, developed and the developing countries -- including the US and China -- have disagreed sharply about how they should reduce their carbon emissions. The Copenhagen conference was scheduled as a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.

But any effective international agreement at Copenhagen will likely require an agreement between the United States and China, the largest developed and developing countries respectively, first.

The United States has argued that China must dramatically reduce the growth rate of its emissions for any climate change agreement to be meaningful.

However, China has resisted, arguing that, as a developing country, it needs to keep its economy growing and raise national living standards. Moreover, Chinese officials say, strict limits on Chinese emissions would be unfair, since the country’s per capita emissions are far lower than those in the United States. They also point out that the United States and other industrialized nations are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide emitted since the Industrial Revolution, and therefore have a larger obligation to curb their own emissions before developing countries.

"The issues are difficult,” Stern said.