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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sec. of State Clinton and Obama Climate Envoy Discuss U.S.-China Clean Energy Collaboration

At a public event at an efficient co-generation power plant in China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama Climate Envoy Todd Stern both discuss the importance of partnership and collaboration to develop and deploy clean, cheap energy technologies to power sustainable development in China.

Are these the first signs of a new Obama Administration strategy for U.S.-China engagement on climate change? Are Clinton and Stern preparing to embark on a strategy focused explicitly on harnessing the best and brightest researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses and leveraging major investments on both sides of the Pacific to develop and deploy clean, cheap and scalable energy sources?

I'll be writing more about this tomorrow, but for now, the full transcript of their remarks are below. I'm interested in your reaction to these remarks and your thoughts on how the United States and the Obama Administration should engage China to ensure a climate stability and to help drive sustainable development in China?

Dialogue on U.S.-China Partnership on Clean Energy
Monday, 23 February 2009, 2:22 pm
Press Release: US State Department

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
With Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern And President of GE Energy China Jack Wen
Taiyang Gong Power Plant, Beijing, China
February 21, 2009

MR. WEN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to our dialogue on U.S.-China partnership on clean energy. I am Jack Wen, business leader for GE Energy in China.

Madame Secretary, as a company formed by Thomas Edison 130 years ago in your home state, New York, and also headquartered in Schenectady for renewable energy, GE is very honored to be part of your first trip to China as Secretary of State.

And also, GE has been working in China for the past 100 years, and we also view China as our other home.

And also, we are very delighted that Secretary of State, in her dedication, visits the power plant today. And this project really leads the industry in demonstrating advanced technology, maximized efficiency, and also minimized environmental impact. And GE is very proud to be able to participate in this project by providing our high-efficiency gas turbine equipment and technology. And this is another great example of U.S.-China cooperation and friendship.

And now, let me introduce Todd Stern. He is the U.S. President's personal representative, the Secretary of State's Special Envoy on Climate Change. He is holding a critical role, in terms of driving U.S. international policy on climate change.

So, with that, Mr. Stern. (Applause.)

MR. STERN: Thank you very, very much. Thank you, Jack. I am delighted to be here. I want to give special thanks to not only Jack, but to Mike Norbom of GE, and Wang Yongliang and (inaudible) who run this plant.

I am very pleased to be here in China on my first trip as the administration’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, and I am delighted to be joined by all of you here: students and researchers, faculty from Tsinghua University’s clean energy research and education center, and Tsinghua’s Institute of Energy and Environment Economics.

And I am extremely impressed by this plant. This is exactly the kind of thing that the United States and China have to do together. It is, as you know, a co-generation lifecycle plant. It not only produces electricity, but captures the heat that would otherwise be lost, and heats a million homes in Beijing, including the U.S. embassy. So, we are delighted about that. And it produces only half the emissions of an ordinary coal plant.

This is the kind of thing that we need to do more of. It is creative, it is effective, and it is profitable. And in an age where we are producing, through the use of coal and oil, greenhouse gases that are endangering us all, this is exactly what we need to do.

Climate change is an epic challenge. Scientists have been warning us about this threat for many years. And mounting evidence suggests that, if anything, scientists have underestimated the seriousness of the threat, not the other way around. In our view, nothing is more important for dealing with this threat than a U.S.-China partnership turning their full attention to it. Together, we produce about 40 percent of worldwide emissions, but together we can do great things.

Now, the United States recognizes its responsibility, as the world's largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, to be a leader in this fight. And we also recognize that China has enormous challenges, in terms of development, development needs and development pressures.

And yet, this is true. There is no way to preserve a safe and livable planet unless China plays a very important role, along with the United States. This is not a matter of politics or morality or right or wrong. It is simply the unforgiving math of accumulated emissions.

But if climate change amounts to a daunting challenge, it also presents enormous opportunity. The only way to address climate change, fundamentally, is to transform the global economy from a high to a low-carbon base, and that presents great economic opportunity. In our view, building a clean energy economy is not only something we can do consistent with economic growth, it is exactly what we need to do right now to build an economy that can compete, not only today, but tomorrow.

And let me say don't believe people who tell you that we can't do this now, that we have to go slow, that we need to wait until this economic crisis is over. The economic crisis is all the more reason why we need to act now. And in the United States, President Obama, in his stimulus plan that was just signed into law, included a major down-payment for clean energy to drive this movement forward in the United States.

China has already taken many important steps. You released an impressive white paper last October. It went through many of the steps that China is taking already. But more needs to be done, and the United States and China can do more together. We can learn from each other. We can engage in joint research and development. We can collaborate on projects involving renewable energy, efficiency in buildings, and the capture and storage of CO2 from coal plants. We can mobilize large-scale investment, and share technology, and we can discover the new technologies that will build a safer and more sustainable future.

I have worked for two Presidents, one also named Clinton, by the way, who liked to say about hard things, "We can do this." And our new President, President Obama, likes to say about hard things, "Yes, we can." If China and the United States make common cause on building a low carbon world and put our collective talent, know-how, and inspiration to the task, we will get this job done.

Thank you very much. And I would like to now introduce the principal speaker at this little session, somebody who it's been a great privilege and honor for me to travel with on my first trip, the Secretary of State, who, along with President Obama, is bringing a broader, more collaborative approach to American foreign policy generally, as well as an intensive new commitment to the issues of clean energy and global climate change. Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted be here this afternoon. This is an extraordinary opportunity to see in action what I discussed this morning in my meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, and then with State Councilor Dai. And when I leave here, I will be meeting with other officials of the Chinese government, and I am particularly pleased that I have a chance to see some of the young people who are going to be making the difference in the future.

I want to thank Mr. Norbom and Mr. Wen. I want to thank Mr. Qiu Ming and Mr. Wang Yongliang and (inaudible) for having us here, and for what you're doing here. That is more important than our visit, by many, many degrees. This represents such a wonderful collaboration. And, as Todd Stern, our Obama administration climate change envoy said, we need to figure out ways to do more and more of this.

In our discussions this morning with Foreign Minister Yang, we agreed in principle to a strategic and economic dialogue between our countries, which will be finalized when our two presidents meet together in London around the G-20 summit. And among the most important issues that we will discuss together is clean energy and climate change, and what the United States and China can do together. And there will be a big role for universities, and faculties, and researchers, and scientists, and technicians, and business people, and government officials, all together.

When, 30 years ago this year, the United States and China established diplomatic relations. We weren't thinking at that time about climate change. There were other pressing global issues that we began to listen to one another, and talk together, and try to understand.

But today, we know that climate change and clean energy are two of the biggest challenges our countries and the world face. This cooperative clean energy venture here, at this power plant, acknowledges an inescapable fact, that the interdependent world in which we live requires us to find new ways to collaborate and cooperate in the face of unprecedented global challenges and untapped global opportunities.

Now, addressing climate change and promoting clean energy is not only a global environmental issue. It is a health issue. It is an economic issue. It is a security issue. And we have to look at it all together in that comprehensive way. And I know that the partnership we see here today can bear so much fruit.

General Electric has provided high-tech equipment to produce heat and power with half the emissions, and far less water usage than the coal plants that we typically rely on. And Chinese businesses build the steam turbines that help to power the plant. So it is a true collaboration.

There are a number of partnerships currently underway between our countries, and it's not only at the national level, but business-to-business, business-to-municipality, and even this one, which is particularly impressive: California has partnered with the province of Jiangsu, where Chinese officials have found that, by replacing aging motors in factories and adopting more efficient responses, they can eliminate the need for more than two dozen coal-fired plants with no added cost.

In addition to the cooperative efforts that are linking states and provinces, cities in China and the United States are finding the economic and environmental benefits very attractive when they collaborate on clean energy.

So, what we're seeing here is the kind of in-depth partnership that we want to encourage. I decided to come to Asia on my first trip as Secretary of State, because I think that the opportunities for us to work together are unmatched, anywhere in the world. We take very seriously in the Obama administration, the issue of climate change. And we are going to be taking strong action to lower carbon emissions dramatically, and develop alternative sources of energy. The stimulus package of $790 billion that President Obama just signed includes extensive new investments in clean energy.

And similarly, here in China, your government is recognizing the importance of developing smarter and more sustainable policies for growth.

Now, historically, as you know, the United States had the largest carbon footprint. But in the last year, China has surpassed us, and that is because of your growth. And I laugh with some of your officials. The United States, and certainly the Obama administration, we want China to grow. We want the Chinese people to have a very good standard of living. What we hope is that you won't make the same mistakes we made, because I don't think either China or the world can afford that.

We were industrializing and growing. We didn't know any better. Neither did Europe. Now we are smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth, sustainable growth, and clean energy-driven growth. This plant can be a model that can be adapted and replicated throughout our economies. And I think it is especially fitting that, as part of this new strategic and economic dialogue that we have agreed to in principle, clean energy and climate change will be at the center. Here we have seen, at this clean thermal plant, evidence of what we can do.

Our new energy secretary, Secretary Steven Chu, a famous scientist in the United States, is devoted to putting his extraordinary intelligence to work on behalf of clean energy. And I talked with him before I came on this trip, and he said he wanted to explore ways between universities in the United States and universities in China, where we can jointly develop intellectual property, where we can jointly come up with new technologies. That is the level of partnership we want, where we can each benefit from the fruit of our labor and our intellectual investment.

So, we have come a long way in the last 30 years, since we formalized relations. We will have many issues to discuss between our two countries. We will not always agree. No two people always agree. Two great countries like ours will not always agree. But we do believe that we can agree and work together on what is one of the most important issues that has ever, ever faced humanity. And I look out and see these bright young people, and I know that your future depends upon the decisions that we will make now.

I heard a Chinese proverb recently that says, "Dig the well before you are thirsty." I love Chinese proverbs. (Laughter.)

The 21st century is testing us to determine whether we are smart enough to follow that advice. I think we are. And I know that we are going to do everything we can in the Obama administration to pass out a lot of shovels so we can dig a lot of wells so we can take care of all the thirst that is out there for a new future, a future of tremendous opportunity.

You know, in every generation, people are called upon to make difficult decisions. I remember very well in the late 1970s my husband was the governor of a small state, Arkansas. And President Carter invited us to meet Deng Xiaoping when he came to the United States. And I remember meeting that great leader, who began the 30-year march that China has demonstrated is able to create a thriving, dynamic, economic, and social miracle.

And so, now we have to take the next 30 years, and make our mark. And this is the area where I am most optimistic. So I will leave China tomorrow, encouraged by the possibilities of what a stronger relationship can mean for the Chinese and American people, for our economies, for our security, for our health, for our education, for our energy profile, but most importantly for your futures.

That, to me, is what politics is supposed to be about. Are people better off when you end than when you started? Are people's lives more possible, filled with potential, or not? And I think we have such a tremendous opportunity ahead of us, and I look forward to playing a small role on behalf of my nation, with all of you here in China.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)



Anonymous said...

This is an extremely positive step as these two key players are critical to move the world away from the brink and towards a sustainable path. While no details were released on the key actions that will be undertaken in this dialogue, it will be essential that this dialogue not simply result in vague declarations, press releases, and photo-ops.

NRDC released a set of nine recommendations in advance of Secretary Clinton’s trip that could form the basis of the ensuing work. They are available here: These actions will need to be initiated quickly if we are going to turn the corner on global warming.

We need these two countries to come together quickly if we are going to be successful in getting a strong international agreement in Copenhagen and strong actions to cut global warming pollution in the years to come.

Anonymous said...

Both the Clinton and the China polices come down to cleaner more efficient use of coal in China. This may be inevitable given China is huge, undeveloped and has lots of coal.
However there must be a timeline to limit coal use expansion in China or the battle against global warming will be lost. India is another huge country with high reliance on coal and must be factored in.
Many climate scientists say the planet is already at a dangerous level of carbon dioxide at around 380 ppm. We add another 2 to 3 ppm a year. Endless expansion of coal fired electricity is unacceptable. China and India must commit to dismantling some of the old, dirtier coal fired uses with lots of conventional pollutants such as sulfur dioxide mercury. This will vastly help residents of these countries as well as all countries downwind of theses plants. If the US and Europe help China and India with funding and technology we must have inspectors with access to verify progress.