International experts will call today on President Obama and Chinese leaders to launch a high-level bilateral council on climate change.
The proposed U.S.-China Partnership on Energy and Climate Change would convene senior government officials to discuss ways to control greenhouse gas emissions and a range of other related issues, from technology to finance. Together, the United States and China account for more than half the world's emissions, but the two countries have been at loggerheads over how to address the issue.
"The United States and China need to begin immediately acting in concert, without awaiting new domestic legislation or multilateral agreements, to jointly seek remedies for their emissions of greenhouse gases," the Pew Center on Global Climate Change report urges.
Under the current Kyoto Protocol, China is not obligated to reduce its emissions, and the United States is not a party to the pact. International negotiators hoping to finalize a new climate agreement in Copenhagen this December say a commitment from both countries is essential to reining in global warming.
Analysts say both sides are making significant strides: Obama has declared that the United States will "help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change," while China already has energy laws on the books that could reduce about a billion tons of carbon dioxide through 2010 from so-called "business-as-usual" emissions.
But negotiators say to really move forward, each country must overcome decades of mistrust and the suspicion that one will use emissions restrictions as a way to impede the wealth, growth or strategic interests of the other.
The Pew report comes on the heels of a Brookings Institution study released last week also calling for direct and immediate cooperation between the two nations. Both groups say the nations can use common interests in energy efficiency, alternative energy and technology markets as ways to further movement on emissions reduction.
"While enhanced U.S.-China cooperation must begin with collaboration between the two national governments, success will ultimately hinge on each nation's ability to catalyze action and investment in the marketplace," Pew wrote.
In coal-rich India, managing emissions and energy use
Also this week, the Pew Center is releasing a sweeping white paper on India, which after China is the world's second-fastest growing CO2 emitter.
But the Washington-based think tank also notes that India's per capita emissions are low compared not only to industrial countries but also to China. Meanwhile, millions of people in India still live without electricity.
Pew researchers argue that coal -- which is cheap and plentiful in India -- will remain the country's prime power source "at least for the next few decades," and that the goal for this country should be steps to reduce emissions from the electricity sector in the short term while offering "green" development benefits.
They called on India's policymakers to improve the efficiency of the power system and "aggressively deploy" high-energy coal technologies like supercritical and ultra-supercritical plants while establishing emissions standards for sulfur and nitrogen oxides and providing incentives for pollution-control technologies.
With more than 70 percent of India's electricity generation based on coal, they wrote, "it is crucial for policymakers to begin to assess the implications of continued use of coal for power generation in the context of the GHG mitigation challenge."