Environment has become “pillar” of US-China dialogue

Genuine agreement between the two sides is most likely to come through environmental cooperation, say Chinese environmentalists

Two leading Chinese environmentalists have welcomed the attention given to climate and energy during last week’s Sino-US talks in Beijing, saying the environment is now the “pillar” of dialogue between the two powers.

Last week, Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli met the new White House counselor on climate change and energy policy, John Podesta, and US energy secretary Ernest Moniz as part of the sixth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The talk focused on the global response to climate change and the need to strengthen communication and cooperation.

Zhang Jianyu, China project manager at US-headquartered Environmental Defense Fund, said the two sides had this year given particular weight to climate change, an area with more potential to yield positive results for both countries than economic discussions. While there is no shortage of channels for dialogue between the US and China, what is still missing is genuine agreement and implementable, concrete actions, and these are most likely to come through environmental cooperation, Zhang said. 

China and the US "really can do something about” climate change, energy and the environment, Zhang said, adding that the Sino-US strategic dialogue had made good progress in these areas since its inception and consensus within the talks was strong. 

Yang Fuqiang, a climate adviser at the US Natural Resources Defense Council,  said climate change, energy and the environment were now the pillars of the Sino-US strategic dialogue. He pointed out how China is now experimenting with two third-generation AP1000 nuclear power projects, using US technology and also how both sides are committed to cooperating on nuclear safety and clean coal technology.