Kerry Cites Climate Change Cooperation As Highlight of His Talks With China

By Patrick Goodenough | July 10, 2014 | 8:10pm EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry greets media representatives flying to China earlier this week, for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool)

( – Asked late Thursday to highlight one thing that stood out during two days of high-level security and economic dialogue with China, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to cooperation on major issues of global concern, and used climate change – “one of the defining threats of our time” – as an example.

“If there is one thing that you would like to highlight for this year’s dialogue, what is it?” a reporter asked Kerry after he and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrapped up the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing.

Kerry in reply said “the level of cooperation overall on major issues of global concern” had been significant, noting a capacity to manage areas of disagreement while still focusing attention on those issues.

“But bearing down on that, let me just pick climate change as an example,” he continued.

“I’ve been involved in the issue of climate change for more than 25 years – even longer. But in the Senate, for many years, it was incomprehensible that the United States and China would find cooperation on climate change.”

“As recently as two years ago, no one would’ve thought that that was possible or expected it.”

Kerry said Chinese President Xi Jinping last year acknowledged the need to work with the U.S. in this area, and “as the consensus began to grow that we needed to take action, we found some common ground.”

At a climate-related event in the Chinese capital earlier in the day, Kerry said that the reason the U.S. and China were now cooperating on climate change “is because the science is growing so significantly, and coming back at us not just with the truth of what was predicted, but coming back in greater quantities, faster than anybody predicted.”

As the world’s biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, Kerry said, “it is no secret that China and the United States have a very special role to play together in combating climate change.”

“Our words and our actions will set the tone. Either we create the momentum to galvanize global action in order to deal with this, or we risk a global catastrophe. That is the science. You can’t be half pregnant on this,” he said.

“If you accept the science, and it tells you what is happening, you have to also listen to the people as they give us warnings about what will happen if we don’t take action.”

During the S&ED, the participants reported progress made through a bilateral climate change working group – which was established during a visit to Beijing by Kerry in April last year – in the areas of smart grids and carbon capture, utilization and storage.

According to the State Department they also reached agreement on vehicle fuel efficiency and GHG emission standards and a climate and forests initiative; and marked achievements in private sector partnerships to reduce hydro-fluorocarbons from refrigeration and air conditioning, and to promote “green cement,” a process using ingredients that release fewer GHG emissions during production.

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