Environment, Energy Top New U.S.-China Strategic Agenda

BEIJING, China, December 15, 2006 (ENS) - The United States and China each must address environmental as well as economic challenges, so "our governments can lead by creating good environmental policies that yield positive economic results," U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told the inaugural meeting of the U.S.– China Strategic Economic Dialogue today.

Johnson accompanied U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and other administration officials to the two day meeting in Beijing, which concluded today.

The Chinese delegation to the dialogue included ministers in charge of finance, development and reform, science, labor, railway, communications, health, environment, and the central bank.

Wu

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi (Photo courtesy Government of China)
"We have come to a number of consensus, although we remained different on some issues," Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told reporters after the landmark dialogue.

The two sides agreed to increase bilateral cooperation in more efficient and environmentally sustainable energy use, facilitation of personal and business travel, and development of lending.

During his visit, Johnson signed a trilateral statement of cooperation with the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, SEPA, and the Asian Development Bank.

The agreement is intended to support the development of a cap on sulfur dioxide emissions and an emissions trading mechanism, the use of economic and market tools to address environmental issues, and the strengthening of SEPA's regional infrastructure.

The two countries agreed to launch a joint economic study on energy and environment.

"Throughout America's history, we have learned that we can protect the environment while enjoying economic growth," Johnson said.

U.S. officials

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, flanked by U.S. cabinet secretaries and other officials, responds to reporters' questions today in Beijing. U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman stand together to Paulson's immediate left. (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy in Beijing)
China will join the Government Steering Committee of the clean coal FutureGen project, officials of both countries announced today, making China the third country to join the United States in the FutureGen International Partnership. South Korea signed on in June.

”China and the U.S. share a common energy resource in coal, so it is imperative that we work together to find ways to use coal effectively, efficiently, and without contributing emissions,” Secretary Bodman said.

The $1 billion FutureGen initiative is scheduled to begin operations in 2012. It will be the first plant in the world to produce both electricity and commercial grade hydrogen from coal. Once completed, the technology will be used by member countries to reduce emissions around the globe.

"Our joint efforts in developing new energy technologies including clean coal and renewable energy will enhance our nations’ energy security, provide for economic growth, and reduce harmful pollutants," Bodman said.

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Xu Guanhua is China’s Minister of Science and Technology. (Photo courtesy Government of China)
Secretary Bodman and China’s Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua pledged to continue work to advance clean renewable energy technologies through discussions on market potential and commercialization and methods and results of research and development.

In addition, officials of both countries signed the U.S.-China Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Protocol, renewing collaboration in developing and deploying clean, energy efficient and renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydrogen energy.

China’s Atomic Energy Authority Chairman Sun Qin and Secretary Bodman discussed the importance of cooperation on nonproliferation and the development and availability of "safe and cost-effective" nuclear energy technology.

Saturday, Secretary Bodman will participate in the Five-Party Energy Dialogue with China, India, Japan and South Korea. The officials are expected to discuss diversification of supplies and suppliers, improved energy efficiency, and the use of strategic oil reserves in advancing global energy security.

In a joint press briefing, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson hailed the dialogue, saying "it is important and encouraging that we have agreed on so many principles."

Both sides agreed that the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ should open offices in China. The United States has approved China's intention to join the Inter-American Development Bank.

The next Strategic Economic Dialogue will be held in Washington, DC in May 2007.

China's top authorities will require officials pay much closer attention to the environment in 2007, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported today.

"Cutting energy consumption and pollution is the most effective approach to restructuring our economy and improving our economic efficiency," said Ma Kai, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission.

In a national meeting mapping out economic policies for 2007 that was held last week, the Central Government listed eight economic priorities for next year, and environmental protection came in third place, just after economic macro-control measures and agricultural development.