U.S. and China announce positive, cooperative and comprehensive plan for collaboration on clean energy and climate change

“Very exciting day here in Beijing.  There’s enormous interest in both governments in working together to fight climate change.  The package announced today is far-reaching and can make a real difference in cutting emissions.”

That’s an exclusive quote from David Sandalow, DOE’s Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, who just emailed me from China about the newly announced U.S.-China cooperation plan.  Sandalow is going to be in Copenhagen, so I hope to have a real interview with him then.  For details on this plan (with links) and what it means, here is analysis by Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong of the Center for American Progress.  Note that the deal goes beyond “obvious” areas like efficiency and renewables to include things like shale gas, which appears to exist in abundance in China and could allow repowering of existing Chinese coal plants and more rapid medium-term reductions than people have thought possible.

This morning, a comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than we had anticipated and contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:

1.  Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  A memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China’s National Development and Reform Commission sets out avenues for collaboration on capacity building in climate change, with an initial focus on helping China to develop a robust, transparent and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

2. Joint Clean Energy Research Center. Originally announced this July, more details were provided on the joint center that will “facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.”  Financial support from public and private sources of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries, will be provided.  The Center’s research will initially focus on building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. (Factsheet)

3.  Electric Vehicles. Those initiative will “include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects.”  (Factsheet)

4. Energy Efficiency. Building on the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation, government officials of both countries will “work together and with the private sector to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems, benchmark industrial energy efficiency, train building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities, harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy efficient consumer products, [and] exchange best practices in energy efficient labeling systems.” (Factsheet)

5.  Renewable Energy.   The two countries will develop roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment in both countries.  The Partnership will also provide technical and analytical resources to states and regions in both countries to support renewable energy deployment and will facilitate state-to-state and region-to-region partnerships to share experience and best practices.  (Factsheet)

6.  21st Century Coal. The two countries will “launch a program of technical cooperation to bring teams of U.S. and Chinese scientists and engineers together in developing clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies.”  The Presidents also welcomed a package of announcements on public-private partnerships in advanced coal technologies. (Factsheet)

7.  Shale Gas. Under a new Shale Gas Initiative, the U.S. and China will “use experience gained in the United States to assess China’s shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops.” (Factsheet)

8.  Nuclear.  The two countries reaffirmed the goals of the recently-concluded Third Executive Committee Meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to promote the peaceful use of civilian nuclear energy, and ” agreed to consult with one another in order to explore such approaches””including assurance of fuel supply and cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power while minimizing the risks of proliferation.”

9.  Public-private partnerships on clean energy. A new U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP) will “leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations.”  The ECP, consisting of at least 22 founding member companies, will work on collaborative projects in renewable energy, smart grid, clean transportation, green building, clean coal, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.

In a joint statement, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao agreed on a common approach to achieve a successful outcome in international climate negotiations (emphasis added in bold):

Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world’s ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments.

In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support.

Taken together, these commitments and statements represent an important step forward towards agreeing on a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of China’s policies for achieving the necessary emissions reductions that science requires. They will also hopefully start to satisfy those skeptical that China will agree to a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of its impressive array of policies for achieving emissions reductions.

The announcements also suggest that the United States and China are on the same page when it comes to both the necessity of aggressively moving forward on an affirmative agenda to reduce carbon pollution and create millions of new clean energy jobs. The agreement contains concrete measures for sustained and meaningful collaboration and demonstrates that the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases are prepared to move beyond the tired narrative of developed versus developing country responsibilities on climate action toward a more “positive, cooperative, and comprehensive” relationship on clean energy and climate change.

We hope that the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen will follow this example and focus as much on bottom-up technological strategies for achieving real reductions in emissions as it will on top-down targets for carbon caps.

JR:  For more on shale gas and its implications for U.S. emissions reductions, see There appears to be a lot more natural gas than previously thought (Part 1) and therefore unconventional gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet (Part 2).

15 Responses to U.S. and China announce positive, cooperative and comprehensive plan for collaboration on clean energy and climate change

  1. mahmijd says:

    The Dallas News reported:

    Two weeks ago, U.S. Renewable Energy Group, led by Dallas investor Cappy McGarr, announced plans to build a $1.5 billion wind energy farm in West Texas. About a third of the money would come from federal stimulus funds. All of the wind turbines (and much of the remaining investment capital) would come from China.

    Looks like the green jobs go to China. This project will be 300 construction jobs and then 30 technicians permanent. Not millions of jobs.

  2. Leif says:

    Best news that I have seen in a long time.
    It does appear that the President has been busy in spite if all our concerns.
    I wonder if this is fit for a front page spread in the NY times?

  3. Canada Guy says:

    This doesn’t look very encouraging. Lots of measuring and planning, and lots of focus on coal and shale. There is no clean coal, it is a fairy tale. Where are the actual *cuts* in emissions?

  4. mike roddy says:

    I like the cooperation part, but shale gas instead of coal is just business as usual. There are fracturing and water quality issues with shale gas. Gas has 55% of coal CO2 emissions, meaning that Chinese demand growth will make this substitution for coal a wash in a couple of decades. Meaning that we accomplish nothing. We need a much higher bar than going from coal to natural gas.

    [JR: Nah. The key is how fast China can peak and reduce — and that means replacing existing coal plants.]

  5. Stephan says:

    Finally cooperation between the U.S. and China on a larger scale, which is necessary. Both as the biggest economies of the world, they also are amongst the biggest emitters in the world. Therefore, a colaberation is needed in order to reduce these green house gasses emitted in the U.S. and in China, but next to that also to set an example for other countries.

    For more info on the environment, have a look at this Green News.

  6. As someone who has been studying and wondering around China for almost forty years and writes an annual textbook on developments in the region _East & Southeast Asia 2009) I think this is wonderful news. Only a few years ago the Chinese were having none of this. And now not only are they more and more involved in the challenges of climate change their leadership understands the jobs potential in the transition to clean energy that much of the American public has still not quite grasped.

  7. This is about as good as can be expected from the two largest industrial/financial powers in the world. I don’t expect them to say “stop capitalism and save the planet.” That’s our job as climate activists. If they can bring this to Copenhagen and get a solid agreement, that’s about all you can expect. The rest is up to us. A new world is necessary.

  8. Leif says:

    With the obvious National Security issues involved, if one takes a moment to reflect, I would like to encourage both the United States and China to submit a military budget that cuts traditional military expenses to the bone and apply the remainder to fund a serious coordinated assault on the ramifications of global climatic disruption. Just 10% of each of our already allocated budgets, would fund almost 50% of Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0. 10% of the remaining military’s budgets would easily fund the rest. This action would focus the eyes of the world on the real threats to the citizens of all nations and not the red herrings of our past. In addition I contend that such action would defuse hostilities to such a degree that future cuts in military expenses could be continued without raising the national debt, in fact one could probably even fund universal heath care and still have some change.
    What do you say Pentagon, time to step up to the plate…

  9. paulm says:

    a different perspective…

    [JR: Nah. That ain’t on climate and energy. A much better analysis is here. Maybe I’ll repost it.]

  10. “an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries.”

    That sounds like it means there will not be targets for developing countries – not even targets of reducing a fixed amount from business-as-usual growth of emissions.

  11. Chris Dudley says:

    Joe and Mike (#4),

    Natural gas seems like a good fit for the US though it may start to phase out in California which has already developed it pretty extensively and which does not burn a lot of coal now. In the US is can supply power in the Mid-west when wind can’t and thus replace coal. It can backstop wind and solar in the East as well with the same effect. But what about China with its lock in rare minerals? Does building a gas infrastructure to help replace coal do better than building an electrical storage infrastructure? This may be a case where leap-frog gives an advantage. Skipping gas as a transition fuel may be a better path if the pipelines, storage facilities and turbines are not already mostly in place. We are burdened with existing investments while they are not to the same extent for gas. They do have a coal albatross though while many of our coal plants are old and long since payed for.

  12. mike roddy says:

    Joe: Please explain your Nah comment about peak and reduce, since I don’t know exactly what you are referring to. Sounds like burn more until peak prices dictate noncompetitiveness, but that doesn’t exactly sound like you.

    I’m also shocked that you would consider gas a legitimate stopgap for either us or China, though I agree with Chris that it’s OK as a baseline backup for solar (Brightsource includes it in their designs). Besides all the CO2, what about contamination and aquifer depletion from fracturing? There have been 1,000 cases brought against gas drilling sites by local governments for aquifer contamination.

    [JR: China has massive energy needs. CSP and wind with gas (plus the nuclear they are building) can cover a lot of new generation, but we need to replace existing plants to. So shale gas instead of coal is NOT business as usual. It can repower existing coal plants — and in China we’ll need to replace existing coal plants with something with far lower emissions. Also, one can do CCS with gas, and probably to much greater effect. A gas plant with 50% CCS equals a coal plant with 80% CCS. China is will need to slash emissions at all those coal plants it built in the last two decades. Gas could play a key role for China.]

  13. I think you are all missing the forest for the trees….it really doesn’t matter what the US and China do together as China is going already leading the US in very climate mitigation area once can think of. China is the largest builder of hydro power in the world today; largest wind and solar deployer; largest nuclear plant builder (160GWs by 2030).

    China will coninue to do what it wants to do regardless of what the decades-behind-American want. As if the US has word to say anyway that they should listen to?

  14. Phil Eisner says:

    Because of the enormous scale of electric base power needs in China and the enormous growing size of their awful coal industry, large quantities of shale gas would be a godsend for them. Replacing coal with shale gas would greatly help their environment and it would lessen their CO2 emissions. They will need to do that and produce solar and wind power. China will probably find shale gas for base-load electricity much cheaper than solar thermal with energy storage plus large scale wind and smart electric distribution. They will do all three to some degree, I assume, and the result will certainly help mitigate global warming.

  15. Canauck09 says:

    China’s First Shale Gas Discovery has already been announced by Canadian Micro-Cap / Petromin Resources and it appears to be very large.
    This company is also partnered with the Alberta Research Council whose specialties include Carbon Capture and Storage and they have announced with China that they will conduct the (First ever in the World)
    (Multi-Well Test Pilot Project) whereby they will inject CO2 into the entire Quinshi Basin Coal Seams.
    Commencement of this project is due any day now!
    In 1998 the (A.R.C.)Alberta Research Council conducted a single well CO2 Sequestration Test pilot in the Quinshi Basin that yielded outstanding results taking coalbed methane production from 35% up to 70% while safely storing CO2. Here is the link:
    This is why the Chinese are very anxious to spearhead CCS in China as it appears to be a win win scenario with western help.
    Note: CO2 Sequestration into Shale Gas Formations is also been investigated, imagine the further impact this could have if found to be successful.
    If anyone can do it, it is A.R.C. as they have a widely known reputation as been some of the very best expertise in CO2 Sequestration globally.