The United States will press China this week to lower its tariffs on clean energy technology as one of many steps the two countries can take to fight global warming, U.S. officials said on Monday.
Both China and the U.S. have much to lose from potentially devastating impacts of climate change, but much to gain by partnering to develop clean energy technologies that will power our economy by cutting carbon emissions, David Sandalow, assistant secretary of energy for policy and international affairs policy, told reporters in telephone conference call.
He spoke shortly before U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke were headed to China to explore ways the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters could work together to address climate change.
Locke, who was departing from San Francisco, wants to begin talks on how to accelerate and enhance the role of the private sector in driving cooperation, investment and trade in clean energy, Travis Sullivan, policy director for Commerce Department, told reporters.
The two countries have tremendous trade opportunities in areas such as wind power, energy efficiency, clean coal and modernizing the electric grid, but U.S. companies face high tariffs on some exports, Sullivan said.
They also worry about Chinese practices that favor domestic companies and weak intellectual property rights protection that puts their patented products at risk, he said.
At the same time, Locke will listen to China's concerns about U.S. export controls that restrict sales of some high-technology goods, Sullivan said.
This week's talks set the stage for possible agreements in the weeks and months ahead, Sandalow said.
But he emphasized Locke and Chu are not going to China to negotiate the details of the new climate treaty that countries are striving to conclude this December in Copenhagen.
Many experts believe close cooperation, perhaps even a bilateral deal, between the United States and China is needed for the Copenhagen meeting to succeed.
But so far, China is resisting setting a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions that many believe is necessary for the U.S. Senate to approve any climate treaty.
We think China needs to make a significant commitment ... in order to address the climate problem, Sandalow said, noting that the country is already doing a lot to cut emissions and to boost energy efficiency.
It has strong goals with respect to renewable energy and nuclear, but both our countries are going to have to do more in the years and decades ahead, Sandalow said.