S&ED Joint Session on Climate Change Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse
Beijing, China
June 6, 2016


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Vice Premier. We’ve had a very productive discussion here this morning, and I think what’s important to point out – since we launched the Climate Change Working Group in 2013 with State Councilor Yang Jiechi originally, our nations’ work on this particular area has become one of the strongest pillars of our relationship.

And I think we’ve known that we have an ability to achieve what no other two nations have the ability to achieve, and we’ve known that from the beginning. So as a result, each year, our bilateral cooperation has increased. And it was really – as I said earlier, it was thanks to this cooperation that we were able to go to Paris and be able to pass the agreement that took place in Paris. But looking to the year ahead now, what we talked about here today, there are a few areas where we have an ability together to really make a difference.

First, we have to make good on the agreement that we reached last December. And we all went to New York. I had the privilege of signing for the United States, and along with Vice Premier Zhang, we had representatives from more than 170 countries. And now, the key is to make sure we bring this agreement into force this year. We need 55 countries representing 55 percent of the emissions. We’re already above 40 countries and we’re already above 40 percent, so we’re really getting very, very close. And if we work together, we can get the – we can get this into effect this year, which makes a dramatic impact.

Second, we need to build on the contributions that our two countries have made in the negotiations by showing similar leadership in other venues. And we discussed a few minutes ago the work we could do on the HFCs on the Montreal Protocol, on the civil aviation market, and also to deal with the G20 summit when we come here to China. We (inaudible) there to make a significant contribution.

And we also, as the world’s two largest economies, we need to uphold our own commitments by showing that we’re going to scale down high-carbon, high-pollution investment and developments in the choices that we make with respect to our own financing.

And so finally, I’ll just close by saying that we discussed ways that we can broaden and institutionalize our bilateral leadership on climate change, recognizing, as we both do, that this is a long-term investment for our people and for people on the planet. So I think all of us are very encouraged by the progress that we’ve made. We’re very grateful for the strength of the joint working group cooperation and I think we have an opportunity now to make a dramatic contribution over the course of the rest of this year.

So thank you very much, Mr. Vice Premier. We really think this was a very valuable conversation this morning.

VICE PREMIER WANG: (Via interpreter) The Chinese and American representatives had in-depth and candid discussions on the next steps of the Paris agreement and the bilateral cooperation. They came to a lot of common understanding and produced positive outcomes. This meeting is quite successful and is a good way to start the S&ED this year. This is the fourth time we gathered together to discuss this global challenge and (inaudible) cooperation.

Since the first joint special session on climate change in 2013, climate change cooperation has become a bright spot in our efforts to build a new model of major country relationship. We established the Climate Change Working Group and issued three joint statements, actively implemented the Ten Year Framework for Cooperation for Energy and the Environment and played a crucial role for the conclusion of the Paris agreement.

These outcomes embody the hard work and wisdom of China and the United States, and they are made possible by the hard work and the dedication of our teams. I want to use this opportunity to pay respect and express appreciation to all of you. This year is crucial for the international community to implement the Paris agreement. We will continue with the spirit of cooperation of the Paris conference, work for effective implementation of the agreement, constructively participate in the follow-up negotiations, deepen mutual trust, build consensus, prevent the implementation of the agreement from going awry.

Just now, Secretary Kerry mentioned the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou. We need to make good use of this summit to encourage the member-states to produce more substantive outcomes on energy, accessibility, clean energy, energy efficiency, and the global energy governance, and strengthen the confidence and the participation of the various parties in global climate governance. We need to continue to use the S&ED, the Summit on Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities, Climate Change Working Group, and other mechanisms to expand our bilateral practical cooperation on energy conservation, emissions reduction, clean energy, smart grids, green ports, and low-carbon cities, and to create more tangible benefits to our two peoples. We need to increase communication, draw on each other’s strengths, find a green development path compatible with our respective national conditions and development stages, and (inaudible) abilities, realize common development at a higher level and set a fine example for global sustainable development.

There is a lot we can do together and this requires us to continue with close communication and to make sustained efforts to work together for new outcomes and new progress on climate change cooperation. Thank you.

SECRETARY LEW: Thank you. We had a good discussion this morning following up on the efforts of working together. We had an historic agreement in Paris in December and today, we focused on what we can do working together to implement that agreement and to tackle the opportunities and challenges that are connected to implementing.

Climate change is surely a health issue, but it is also an economic issue. The costs of climate change are not limited to one sector of any economy or any one economy in the world. It affects agricultural productivity, transportation, infrastructure, power grids, and it obviously drives up the costs of health care.

For all these reasons, taking action to address climate change today is critical from an economic perspective. If we fail and we defer dealing with climate change, we’re going to have more expensive and more drastic actions that we have to take further down the road, and at the expense of more damage to our environment and our climate.

The only sensible path is for us to work to make changes now as gradually as we can – in the process, create jobs, reduce businesses and household expenses and drive innovation, technology, and new industries.

We will be most effective if we use market forces that balance the cost of reducing emissions with what the latest science tells us we need to do to keep temperature increases below dangerous levels. The alternative: Allowing greenhouse gas emissions to climb to increasingly dangerous levels will only escalate the damage and expense of dealing with the challenge in the future, and that means more expensive action.

To meet our global climate goals we need to mobilize climate finance so countries can pursue low-carbon resilient development. And we can only reach the unprecedented levels of funding needed for climate financing by using a variety of channels, including development finance institutions, direct bilateral assistance, multilateral development banks, and new funds such the Green Climate Fund and China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund.

These limited public resources must leverage larger amounts of private sector capital for adaptation and mitigation activities. And we’re now well on our way to meeting the goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 from all sources to address developing country needs in the context of meaningful mitigation activities.

However, supporting low-carbon investments alone is not sufficient. We also need to reduce financing for high-carbon projects, particularly coal-fired power generation that’s not absolutely critical, and take advantage of increasingly cost-effective, low-carbon alternatives. It makes little sense to cut carbon emissions at home by greening our power sector only to subsidize the construction of high-emission facilities elsewhere in the world. It’s like trying to fill a bucket with water that – well, the bucket that has holes. It just doesn’t work.

Climate change affects us all regardless of where the emissions come from, which is why we need to work together to address the challenges globally. That’s why the United States and China are leading by example working to strictly control public investments and (inaudible) projects that generate large amounts of pollution and carbon emissions, both domestically and internationally.

The United States and China have a robust cooperation around all of these issues, which has been an important part of this year’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue. In addition, this year we’ve worked closely with China on the valuable new green finance work that China has launched during its G20 presidency. Through the leadership of the People’s Bank of China and the Bank of England, we’re identifying both challenges to increasing green finance activities and opportunities to address those challenges with innovative solutions. We look forward to continuing this joint effort, recognizing the important role that both of our countries play in leading the transition to a low-carbon future. Thank you.

STATE COUNCILOR YANG: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Well, today, we really had a good session and the two sides are focused on how we can work together to deepen climate change cooperation, and we discussed a lot of important issues. And it is very useful for our future cooperation. Our joint working group is working very effectively – we commend them for that – and we adopted the report.

And now, several impressions: First, our successful cooperation on climate change proves that we can do a lot of major things that are good for both countries and the world. The international efforts against climate change have been going on for nearly three decades, and the UNFCCC has been in effect for over two – 20 years. While the breakthrough at Paris and the accord would not have been possible without our cooperation – in particular, President Xi and President Obama took the lead in announcing the respective post-2020 target and really demonstrated a sense of responsibility as major countries – it also shows that we have more common interests than differences, as long as we opt toward dialogue, not confrontation; more understanding and more sense of responsibility. We can turn a lot of issues of potential disputes to cooperation.

Second, sticking to common but differentiated responsibility is the important prerequisite. The Paris accord is a testament to the implementation of that important principle. We have 1.3 billion people, although our total emission is big, but per capita emission is only one-third of developed countries. We are determined to go low carbon, but it takes time. We hope that our two sides could continue to deepen our cooperation along the (inaudible) for common but differentiating responsibilities.

And third: Paris accord is a new starting point for bilateral climate change cooperation. Just now, we have heard a lot of what China’s been doing. China is in this intensive campaign to cut emission and treat the environment. In the next five years, our carbon intensity will be down by 18 percent and non-fossil fuels will take up 15 percent in the primary energy consumption from the 12 percent. It means hundreds of billions of dollars of business opportunities. If we can work together, then our cooperation will bear new fruit.

We can expand low-carbon technology joint research and development and dissemination and work together on nuclear energy, shale gas, and renewable energy. We will ensure the success of the summit on low-carbon city and explore areas of cooperation on green port, zero-emission vehicles. In our discussion, we said that if the United States can ease its natural gas export to China, then we will move faster to reduce our use of coal. China will be willing to learn from the experience of the United States on carbon trade, GHG calculation and energy conservation management.

Last but not least, I want to emphasize that action is more important than statements. It is not easy to reach the Paris Accord. It is more difficult to implement it. Well, we have made sure we have set out the target of the 2030 peak time, and we have set up this 20 billion South-South Cooperation Fund. We say it and we mean it and we will make good on each of the steps that we have taken.

Just now, Secretary Lew said that the United States will honor its commitment, including providing 100 billion U.S. dollars to developing countries every year by 2020, and the United States will reach its reduction target at 2020. And it will transfer climate-friendly technologies to developing countries. Only in doing so, only by working together, can we make sure that we will continue to make progress on climate change and produce more progress, and to translate that accord into concrete result.

Well, today’s session is really productive. I’ll call it a day or conclude discussions. (Applause.)