The US and China yesterday signed a deal committing the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to tackle climate change and promote clean technologies.
The memorandum of understanding contains no specific commitments or emission targets, but was hailed by negotiators on both sides as representing a major breakthrough in the run-up to UN-backed climate change negotiations in Copenhagen later this year.
The document, which was signed after two days of talks between the US State Department and Chinese officials, commits the countries to undertake regular climate change meetings.
It also lists 10 technology areas where the two countries will co-operate to promote wider adoption, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean coal, smart grid technologies, electric cars, and clean tech research and development.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the agreement would serve to strengthen links between the two countries' fast-growing clean tech industries.
"It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy," she added.
The deal follows a series of bilateral talks aimed at breaking the deadlock that has seen China argue it is unwilling to sign up to a global deal to cut emissions unless the US agrees to more ambitious cuts in emissions, and the US maintains that as the world's largest polluter China has to agree to some form of binding emission targets.
Those close to the UN-backed negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto deal have been divided on the significance of the US-China talks.
Some have welcomed the agreement as evidence that a compromise deal could yet be reached in Copenhagen, but others have counselled that the bilateral talks could undermine the wider talks and result in the US and China rejecting the UN process in favour of their own, less ambitious agreement.
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