China and the United States, two of the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide, have agreed to work together to research environmental science and technology.
"We already have some small projects in the pipeline, but we are talking about major action," George Gray, assistant administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, told China Daily exclusively yesterday.
"We will explore approaches such as joint research programs with scientists from the two nations and funding from the two governments, frequent personnel exchanges and science workshops," he said.
Sun Hong, deputy director of the social development department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said China wants most cooperation in five areas, three of which relate to water: drinking water safety, the recycling of urban sewage and the treatment of polluted water.
The monitoring of environmental protection and clean production systems are also key areas of interest for joint research, he said.
The US is interested in "all areas of environmental science", Gray said.
Scientists will discuss the specifics of the research at a three-day China-US Workshop on Environmental Science and Technology Cooperation, which opened in Beijing yesterday.
The safety of drinking water, emerging environmental technologies and the building of "green communities" are the key topics on the agenda for the workshop, which is the first of its kind between the two countries.
The workshop is also the first major activity since China and the US signed an agreement in December to cooperate on environmental protection.
"Environmental science has always been a focus of Sino-US cooperation on science and technology. It will help China tackle its growing environmental problems," Liu Yanhua, vice-minister of science and technology, said at the workshop.
About 300 million Chinese farmers are currently without safe drinking water, and the air quality in more than one-third of the country's cities is below the national standard, he said.
Shao Yisheng, director of the urban water resource center of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction, said about 100 million urban residents were also living without safe drinking water.