Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday that cooperation between China and the U.S., the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, is crucial to tackling the climate change crisis.
“The strategic partnership between the United States and China, as it is beginning to emerge, is a fateful one, an important one, a crucial one, if the world is going to be successful in addressing this crisis,” Gore said in a speech to a clean energy forum in Beijing.
His remarks come less than two months before December’s global climate conference in Copenhagen that aims to replace the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Gore said a clear understanding of the global warming threat and a full commitment to renewable energy were key.
“There is no more worthy goal for our two great nations,” said Gore, who shared the Nobel Peace Price in 2007 for his efforts to combat global warming.
Pressure has been mounting for the U.S. to put together its position before the U.N. conference. Gore said he was confident the U.S. Senate would pass a climate change bill before the conference and said a watered-down House bill could be amended later to strengthen its provisions.
He said that while any global pact reached in Copenhagen was bound to disappoint many, it would likely be replaced by something stronger once the business community got on board.
“I choose to be optimistic,” he said.
Wealthy nations are seeking broad controls on emissions from all countries in the new pact, while developing countries say tough emissions limits would likely hamper their economic grow and that industrialized nations should carry most of the burden.
As a compromise, developing countries say they would be willing to accept compensation for the economic costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental group Greenpeace said Monday at least $140 billion a year will be needed.
Gore also called for U.S.-China cooperation on wind, solar, and geothermal power generation and said charging companies for the heat-trapping carbon dioxide they produce would spur innovation and bring down the cost of future technologies. But he questioned the viability of current biofuel and nuclear technologies as a substitute for oil and coal.
Earlier Wednesday, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing was hopeful that the Copenhagen talks would be fruitful, in a phone conversation with President Barack Obama ahead of the American leader’s visit to China next month, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
“Even though there are still many problems that need to be solved in the current negotiations, as long as all parties join hands and strive hard, there is still hope that the Copenhagen meeting will achieve positive results,” Hu said.
Hu promised in a September speech at the United Nations to make “substantial” reductions in China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output. However, the country’s target of reducing energy consumption per unit of its GDP by 20 percent by 2010 compared to 2005 levels would still result in a net increase because of the country’s high rate of economic growth.