The United States and China could bring the world together on tackling climate change even though UN talks have been bogged down, members of a sustainable business group said.
Rich and developing countries remain divided on how to share the burden of slowing global climate change ahead of a December UN meeting in Copenhagen where 190 countries are slated to hash out the extension or replacement of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, Reuters reports.
“The critical element in bridging that divide is the dialogue between the US and China,” Bjorn Stigson, the president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a group of 200 companies, told reporters yesterday.
China recently became the top polluter of greenhouse gases, surpassing the United States, where emissions on a per capita basis are far higher. Together they account for more than 40 % of global carbon emissions.
But China has begun to move rapidly on climate change. It will become the world leader in production of wind power this year and is also a leading maker of solar panels.
China wants to use renewable energy at home to increase energy security and protect its people and agriculture from pollution. It also seeks to build its renewable energy export market.
Jorma Olilla, the chairman of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, said some of the best news is now coming from China. “It’s the attitudinal change in leadership as well as the actions that are underway there,” he said.
The government has also put fuel efficiency limits on cars that are tougher than those in the United States.
China wants technology sharing agreements with US companies on things like carbon capture and storage, where emissions are siphoned from power plants and pumped underground for permanent storage, said Stigson, who also advises Beijing on sustainability issues.
And increasingly it is developing its own technologies.
In the United States, many technology companies can benefit by working with the huge market China represents, the business leaders said.
Rung by rung
To be sure, much daylight remains between rich and poor countries on climate in the UN talks, with China saying many rich countries have failed to live up to their past climate commitments.
Still, many business leaders say prospects for cooperation between the two countries has given lots of hope there will be progress. “A huge amount is happening,” said Olilla. “Even if we get a disappointment in Copenhagen, these things would continue to make an impact.”
Jim Rogers, president and CEO of US power generator Duke Energy Corp said US and Chinese companies are building a ladder of cooperation on climate “rung by rung.”
He pointed to agreements between his company and Chinese ones on carbon capture and storage from coal plants. He China could be a good laboratory for those technologies because it gets 80 % of its power from coal which is rich in carbon dioxide, while the United States gets 50 % of it from the fuel.