June 3, 2009 / 4:05 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. envoy sees climate partnership with China

* Partnership could "anchor" overall U.S.-China relations

* Working together on efficiency, electric vehicles

* U.S. must meet China halfway on cutting emissions

(Adds quotes, context throughout)

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - The United States wants to forge a partnership with China, bringing the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases together to address global warming, Washington's top climate diplomat said on Wednesday.

This bilateral relationship could be a "positive anchor" for overall U.S.-China relations, possibly easing dialogue on such issues as trade and the Korean peninsula, said Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change.

Stern said he expected no signed document from meetings he will have in China next week, but that in the future, the areas for possible partnership include energy efficiency, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage.

"I do not expect to have a big deliverable or a big agreement to wave around at the end of the trip, but this trip is one piece of what is going to be an extended interaction with the Chinese at all levels," he said. "So yes, the vision that we have is of a clean energy and climate partnership bilaterally with the Chinese."

China is now the world's biggest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide, in large part because of its fast-growing economy and its reliance on coal. The United States is second.

While China is curbing its carbon intensity -- the measure of greenhouse emissions as related to economic output -- its absolute emissions are soaring, Stern said, adding that China now emits about four times as much carbon as the the United States does for every unit of its GDP.

Stern sets off for China on Saturday, along with White House Science Adviser John Holdren, the U.S. Energy Department's David Sandalow and other officials.

The envoy told a gathering at the Center for American Progress that China needs to "rebalance its economy" to cut down on polluting industries and to increase environmentally cleaner alternatives, especially to coal-fired power plants.


"This is not a trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection. China must do both," Stern said.

He said the United States should "meet China halfway" by developing a genuine partnership.

"If the two Goliaths on the world stage can join hands and can meet each other at the highest levels in a long-term, vigorous climate and energy partnership, it will truly change the world," Stern said.

Stern dismissed China's recent demand that developed countries commit between 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent of their gross domestic product to help developing countries address global warming, but said the world's rich countries would have to provide financial and technical support at some level.

"The numbers that have been tossed around (by the Chinese) I don't take seriously because they're not intended to be serious. I think they're intended to set some marker down," he said.

He noted that U.S. climate change legislation now moving through Congress includes provisions for substantial "financial flows" to China and other developing countries to help limit their carbon emissions.

As Stern spoke, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee that if the United States ultimately legislates the cutting of greenhouse emissions, "(we) ought to be able to negotiate or work with China and other countries to get them to do the same."

China and other fast-developing countries like India are exempt from carbon-capping requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States is the only major developed country that has not joined this global pact, but Washington is working with other nations on a follow-up agreement in a series of meetings this year, culminating in a forum in Copenhagen in December. (For more Reuters information on the environment, see blogs.reuters.com/environment/) (Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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