This past week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi along with President Hu Jintao and others.
As these meetings were part of her first overseas trip as secretary, their significance is huge in so many ways — but in particular because climate change was prominently on the agenda.
Granted there are plenty of other issues for the United States and China to hash out, but what a great signal that both countries seem willing to start working towards a new global climate agreement to be reached in Copenhagen at the end of this year.
Secretary Clinton: “We also agreed that we share a common interest in working to promote a successful agreement that climate change talks be held in Copenhagen in December of 2009.”
Minister Yang: “The two sides agreed to make joint efforts and work with other parties concerned for the success of the Copenhagen Conference.”
The meetings highlighted what many working on climate change know — that without the United States and China on board, a new global agreement will not effectively stabilize and reduce emissions to the levels needed.
As one of our international policy experts said recently, “At the end of the day, it will come down to a phone call between President Obama and President Hu.”
But even with that, there is so much work that needs to be done to bring the two countries close enough together so that phone call can happen.
Secretary Clinton and Minister Yang agreed, in principle, to continue and elevate a strategic and economic dialogue (SED) that the Bush administration had started, and to include discussions of environmental and security issues.
This “SED” would provide a forum for tackling the many challenges that need to be untangled before a global climate agreement can be reached.
Just before Obama’s inauguration, The Nature Conservancy’s CEO Mark Tercek was invited by then-Treasury Secretary Paulson to participate in an outgrowth discussion of the strategic and economic dialogue, the “Federal Advisory Committee for the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation with China.”
During this meeting, Mark used the opportunity to address how to construct a sustainable energy future for China and the United States, and therefore for the world. One that protects both the climate and the biodiversity and other ecosystem services upon which we all depend.
He touched on four major areas: fossil fuels, forests, hydropower and biofuels. And he ended with a plea that the high-level dialogue on energy and environmental issues begun by Secretary Paulson needs to be continued by the new incoming administration.
Well, from this weekend’s first U.S.- China meetings, it sounds like they heard him. Let’s hope the cooperation shown in this initial meeting carries through to a positive end this December in Copenhagen.
(Image: Hillary Clinton. Source: Marc Nozell/Creative Commons.)