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Even in Agreement, U.S., China Still Worlds Apart on Climate Change

china-flag2While a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the U.S. and China, no firm goals have been set on climate change. Despite the pledge to work cooperatively toward a solution that allows passage of broader international climate legislation and move both countries toward “low carbon” economies, China is sticking to its guns on the notion that, as a developing nation, it should not have to cap its emissions.

The MOU, signed on July 28, states that “Cooperation between the United States and China is critical to enhancing energy security, combating climate change, and protecting the environment and natural resources through pollution control and other measures.”

It also seeks to build a relationship and dialogue “for years to come, while also contributing to multilateral cooperation.”

The two sides’ climate parties have committed to meeting “regularly.” Ongoing talks will be chaired by the Department of State and Department of Energy on the U.S. side and the National Development and Reform Commission on the Chinese side. Read remarks from the signing ceremony here.

The nations’ emissions are roughly the same, though China took the lead in 2006. Together, the two account for about 40 percent of global emissions.

But ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks this December, the U.S. and China have much to work out, analysts say.

“China and the United States are different in their stages of development, national conditions and historic footprints, so I think they should shoulder different responsibilities in tackling climate change,” said Zhang Guobao, president of China’s National Energy Administration, reports the Los Angeles Times.

China does not want to to commit to targets for greenhouse gas reductions, nor does it want to open its market to U.S. cleantech imports.

Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s special envoy for climate change, characterized the impasse as “a lot of ingrained and embedded perspective on this issue that goes back now for 15 years.”

Because China knows that no meaningful global agreement can go forward with its approval, the nation is angling for financial support and know-how related to carbon capture, waste-heat recovery and concentrated solar. But because the nation won’t allow U.S. imports of those technologies, U.S. business groups are loathe to allow the technology transfer, saying that China would surely flood the market with less expensive options.

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