At a time when the governments of China and the US are about to renew their aligned interest in energy security, environmental sustainability and the battle against climate change, businesses, academics and leading research facilities are urging the two governments to make more concrete policies to enhance bilateral cooperation in these key sectors.
China and the US are the world's two largest consumers of oil and coal and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Topics focusing on energy and the environment are expected to figure prominently at the fifth round of China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) to be held on December 4 and 5 in Beijing, but many people are concerned whether anything feasible will be achieved at the meeting or if it will be only more hot air.
The fourth SED meeting held in June in Washington witnessed the formation of the milestone US-China Ten Year Energy and Environment Cooperation Framework, as part of which the two countries pledged to expand cooperation over the next decades in areas such as clean electricity production and transmission, clean air, clean water, efficient transportation as well as forestry and wetland protection. However, no concrete action plans have been filed since then.
"The business people in the clean and renewable energy sector that I am in touch with, both in China and in the US, know nothing or just a little about the 10-year cooperation framework," said Zhu Lei, vice president of China Operation of US-China Green Energy Council.
"That's why I hope, at this meeting, some feasible and mutually-beneficial policies could be inked under the 10-year cooperation framework to facilitate the two countries to jointly explore new ideas, share knowledge and commercialize new technologies," Zhu told China Daily.
In addition, Zhu said the Chinese and US governments should seriously acknowledge their shared responsibility in the battle against climate change and energy crisis at the meeting, and should build a bridge to facilitate effective cross-country communications between government and the private sectors.
Many also believe the fifth SED session should usher the two countries into an era of renewable energy diplomacy, instead of the current energy diplomacy.
In a video address delivered on November 19 at the Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, California, US President-elect Barack Obama pledged to turn over "a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change." He said, when he took over the office, any nation willing to join the cause of combating climate change would become the ally of the US.
"Obama's recent pledge dismissed our worries that the 10-year cooperation framework will be abandoned after the new administration took office," said He Zuoxiu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is currently engaged in developing renewable energy technologies.
Obama pledged to invest $15 billion each year to boost private sector efforts to build a clean energy future, which he believed would steer the US out of the economic crisis. "China should join hands with the US in this matter," He said. "We should also give the renewable energy sector a bigger share in our 4-trillion-yuan stimulus plan."
In addition to its political value, the renewed 10-year cooperation framework is expected to carry more business weight. Zhou Shijian, senior researcher at Tsinghua University, said environment and energy is the right angle for SED rather than pressing China on currency appreciation.
Zhou pointed out that environment and energy will also be a new bright spot in the Sino-US economic and trade cooperation. "As China is planning to build over 40 nuclear power plants in the next ten years, instead of large passenger aircrafts, nuclear technologies are very likely to become next focus in the Sino-US economic and trade cooperation," Zhou said. He went on to add that the two countries' cooperation on energy and environment would bring the US huge business opportunities estimated at around $100 billion.