Sino-US meeting in Washington seals deals on climate reform

Meeting addresses key concerns on spying and economic issues, with deal agreed on five initiatives to cut greenhouse emissions, pollution

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 4:44am

Top US and Chinese officials were wrapping up annual strategic and economic talks that were said to have yielded greater co-operation on reducing greenhouse gases, but again exposed Washington's frustration over cybertheft it says emanates from the emerging Asian power.

Both sides were scheduled to speak to reporters this morning, Hong Kong time, after the conclusion of the two-day talks.

In a sign of the importance he attaches to managing ties with China, US President Barack Obama - who generally meets only leaders from other nations - planned to receive the two main Chinese delegates at the White House.

Yesterday's agenda started with a round table of officials and Chinese and US business leaders at the Treasury.

Washington wants Beijing to speed up economic reforms and reduce state involvement in the economy. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has renewed calls for China to guarantee intellectual property rights and to allow a rise in the value of the yuan.

China has its own concerns about the screening of its companies that want to invest in the United States.

The most tangible outcome of the talks was an announcement of initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

The two sides agreed to five initiatives to cut carbon output from the largest sources, including heavy duty vehicles, manufacturing and coal-fired plants, the State Department said.

The US-China climate change working group, which officials from both countries formed in April, will work with companies and non-governmental groups to develop plans by October to carry out the measures aimed at fighting climate change and cutting pollution.

The initiatives are also aimed at improving energy efficiency, collection and management of greenhouse gas data, and promoting electric grids to carry more power from renewable energy.

The agreements will concentrate on improving technologies, will not be binding and will not seek to cut emissions by specific volumes.

Still, the hope is any co-operation could help lend support to wider international talks on greenhouse gas reductions and help finalise a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change by 2015.

"On the one hand, it's not suddenly going to transform the negotiations, I'm absolutely not saying that, but ... it will project something positive that I think will be helpful," said US climate envoy Todd Stern.

China and the United States are responsible for about 43 per cent of global greenhouse gas output. Increasing the ability of the two countries to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired plants and to bury them underground was also the focus of one of the agreements.

Obama and President Xi Jinping agreed last month to work together on reducing hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators, air conditioners and industrial applications.

The two sides have also discussed cybersecurity - now a pre-eminent US concern in its relations with China.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse