Note: this post originally appeared on the National Journal.
The United States and China both have a lot to gain from collaborating on clean energy, and President Hu’s visit is a symbol of China’s commitment to this partnership.
As the two largest cumulative greenhouse gas emitters, both countries are looking for ways to transition to cleaner energy while advancing their private sectors. China is moving quickly on renewable energy, clean technology, and energy efficiency but still faces the energy challenges of a rapidly industrializing country, and shares the United States’ heavy reliance on coal for energy.
Hu’s visit will catalyze cooperation on these topics and more. At the summit, the leaders will discuss expansion of the Clean Energy Research Centers (CERC) agreed to during President Obama’s November 2009 visit to Beijing. The CERCs will result in joint work plans and will provide a road map for work on advanced coal technology, electric vehicles, and building efficiency. These and other joint projects can lead to economies of scale and lower costs, redounding to the benefit of industry in growth and jobs, while also addressing climate change.
In the past, Congress has eyed China’s progress on energy with suspicion. However, in the past year the country has been more open on its strategies to reduce emissions, including committing in Cancun to regularly report their progress on emissions reductions. In addition, many of the issues around trade were resolved during the December 2010 Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting (JCCT). While not every contentious issue will be resolved immediately, the countries’ continued collaboration will result in new opportunities for American businesses.
In addition to the summit, Members of Congress should keep an eye on the release of China’s 12th Five Year Plan in March, which will likely include new targets for pollutants and formal adoption of China’s 40-45% carbon intensity reduction target pledged at Cancun. These commitments show that China is serious about its clean energy goals, and the United States can learn from their actions.