US, China vow to boost climate efforts amid ‘increasing dangers’

China and the United States, citing the “overwhelming scientific consensus” on human-induced climate change and its worsening effects, are pledging to boost cooperation through an agreement unveiled during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit.

“The United States of America and the People's Republic of China recognize that the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative,” the two nations said in a joint statement Saturday.

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China and the U.S. announced a new “Climate Change Working Group,” which will present a report at the next meeting of the joint Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. in July.

“In keeping with the vision shared by the leaders of the two countries, the Working Group will begin immediately to determine and finalize ways in which they can advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy. They will place this initiative on a faster track through the S&ED next slated to meet this summer,” the announcement states.

The two nations together noted the “sharp rise” in global temperatures over the past century, as well as  “alarming” ocean acidification, rapidly vanishing Arctic sea ice, and the “striking incidence of extreme weather events occurring all over the world.”

Todd Stern, the State Department’s special envoy for climate change and Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, will lead the working group effort.

The new working group will review the two countries’ existing cooperation and ways to improve it, and look for new areas of “concrete, cooperative action” on “green” and low-carbon economic growth.

China and the U.S. have a series of existing cooperation agreements on low-carbon energy, but Kerry said Saturday that the new agreement elevates the status of the nations’ joint efforts.

“By agreeing to raise the issue of climate change and energy policy to the ministerial level and put it into the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which we will be sharing in July, we have put on an accelerated basis, at a higher level, our joint efforts with respect to energy and climate,” Kerry said during a joint appearance with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Beijing Saturday.

“And I think that globally, that will be a very significant step and significant message,” he said.

China, with its rapid industrial growth and heavy use of coal, overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest greenhouse gas-emitting nation about a half-dozen years ago.

China’s emissions continue to soar, while in the U.S. a shift away from coal and toward natural gas and other factors have been driving down carbon emissions.