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Beijing Wants To Work With US On Climate Change, Says Ambassador

Agence France-Presse in Washington, SCMP – Updated on Feb 07, 2009

China wants US help rather than complaints on climate change, and could be finding a receptive audience as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to visit Beijing. With international talks on global warming intensifying this year, Beijing’s ambassador appealed on Thursday to US commercial self-interest to assist his government’s efforts to combat the problem.

Zhou Wenzhong said Beijing must focus on industrial growth to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty but was not stinting in the global warming fight.

And he said China and the United States, the world’s biggest polluters, could profitably work together and set an example for the international community leading up to a December climate meeting in Copenhagen.

“China and the United States have many shared interests and extensive areas for co-operation on energy and climate change,” he said at a Brookings Institution forum.

The United States should offer its “advanced technologies and a rich experience in energy efficiency and clean energy” to boost China’s own plan, the ambassador said.

“Co-operation between our two countries on energy and environmental issues will enable China to respond to energy and climate change issues more effectively while at the same time offering enormous business opportunities and considerable return to American investors.”

US President Barack Obama has pledged to reverse the resistance of his predecessor, George W. Bush, to action on climate change.

Democrats who control the US Congress have said they hope to have major legislation creating a “cap-and-trade” system for limiting “greenhouse gases” before the Copenhagen talks.

And they have said the paralysing US recession is no excuse for inaction – noting that Mr Obama’s economic stimulus package contains steps to promote clean energy.

But Republicans have signalled they will not sign on to any restrictions on the US economy while letting developing competitors such as China off the hook.

US officials will present their case in person when Mrs Clinton visits China from February 20 to 22.

Mrs Clinton’s new special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, is to join her in Beijing, a State Department official said.

“We need to put finger-pointing aside and focus on how our two leading nations can work together productively to solve the problem,” Mr Stern told The New York Times.

Brookings experts Kenneth Lieberthal and David Sandalow presented a new report proposing incremental steps by the United States and China to co-operate. Among their recommendations was a presidential climate change summit, joint work on clean energy, and the promotion of anti-warming initiatives.

“It’s clear that if the US expects co-operation from China, the US will have to lead,” said Stuart Eizenstat, lead US negotiator at the Kyoto climate talks in the 1990s.

But he stressed that without well-publicised initiatives on the Chinese side, any successor treaty to Kyoto negotiated at Copenhagen would be dead on arrival in the US Senate.

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