The announcement this week that the United States and China are teaming up on an ambitious effort to improve energy efficiency in buildings brought to mind an appropriate cliche’: Better late than never.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Ministry of Urban-Rural Development also said they aim to establish a U.S.-China Clean Energy Development Center, pursuing joint research on a broader suite of topics including clean vehicles and clean coal projects. Yep, the latter includes the carbon capture and storage projects that both countries hope to perfect in order to exploit their respective and massive coal deposits.
China recently surpassed the United States as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses.
From the U.S. side, both Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to China in advance of the announcement. They downplayed expectations, saying they were mainly there to start building relationships between the two and their Chinese counterparts. However, it’s possible the two countries might launch bilateral negotiations that could lead to a climate-change agreement in advance of the pivotal international talks coming up at the end of the year in Copenhagen, Keith Bradsher reports in the New York Times.
Locke, the former Washington governor, expended lots of political calories in office and afterwards in his efforts to secure more U.S.-China trade. Another Washingtonian who’s been itching for the kind of agreement announced this week is U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
For those of us who covered the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in the late 1990s, this seems like it’s awfully overdue. The U.S. Senate unanimously rejected the international treaty to fight climate change, citing the lack of limits on emissions in fast-growing China and India.
What the Clinton-Gore administration failed to get across was that the Kyoto agreement could have been the kind 0f innovation-spurring change here in the United States that could have led to vastly improved energy-efficiency technologies — technologies Americans could be selling to developing countries by now. In the long run, we coulda made money on the deal.
Now, let’s hope those U.S. and Chinese researchers are very smart, and work very fast.