Carbon reduction partnership: U.S. and China

The United States has long been notorious for its greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel consumption. China seems to be taking over the notoriety lately as its emissions are rising with increased coal consumption. There is a heavy reliance and apparent “greed” for coal by the Chinese as it is their primary source of energy and they do not produce significant quantities of oil and gas. Both of these countries are responsible for approximately 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions [1] and a partnership between them offers a tremendous opportunity to curb global emissions, thereby creating a low carbon future. Collaboration on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is one avenue to address the emission problem. This technology involves capturing carbon dioxide produced from power plants and then compressing and storing it in geological formations underground [2].

Application of CCS is not without challenges. While a lot of research and development (R&D) has been performed, there remains a lot to be understood. Carbon dioxide is already being captured by factories for industrial purposes and the petroleum sector is known to inject it below the ground for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) [3]. However, there is little experience with long-term, large-scale capture and injection of carbon dioxide underground. Economic challenges also exist in today’s environment, where an approximate cost driver of $40-$60 per ton of carbon dioxide is necessary for large-scale CCS projects to be commercially feasible [4].

There are several advantages to developing a partnership between the U.S. and China. China has developed technology for carbon capture while the U.S. has focused on both capture and storage, and this allows an opportunity for cooperation [3]. The U.S. has also invested heavily in R&D over the last two decades although this has slowed recently [3]. A joint partnership could translate into the sharing of costs, reduced risk, opportunities for job creation, increased learning, and sharing of expertise. This kind of partnership is desirable and attractive but is probably much easier said than done. China and the U.S. have had their share of tension over energy issues in the past [3] and both parties will need to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial and respectful. Who should lead the initiative? What should be the common target by which emissions will be reduced? These are few of several issues to be agreed on. That being said, what is the potential for such a partnership developing in the near future? The recent Feburary 14th meeting between President Obama and Vice President Xi Jinping may be a first step towards opening opportunities for future cooperation on this issue (Xi is set to assume Chinese presidency in the future). There have already been commitments by these two countries (the 2007 Bali Action Plan and the 2009 Major Economies Forum declarations on Energy and Climate [2]) but perhaps time will tell whether a concrete partnership in dealing with global emissions can emerge.

[1] Clean Air Task Force

[2] A Roadmap for U.S.-China Collaboration on Carbon Capture and Sequestration. November 2009 Report

[3] Yang, C. (2012). Amid U.S.-China Energy Tension, “Clean Coal” Spurs Teamwork

[4] Logan, J., Venezia, J, Larsen, K. (2007). Opportunities and Challenges for Carbon Capture and Sequestration: World Resources Institute Brief



1 Comment

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One response to “Carbon reduction partnership: U.S. and China

  1. yuki451

    I think this partnership will make a progress with CCS development both in US and in China. By the way, in COP17 held in last December at Durban, South Africa, CCS was finally accepted as one a carbon reduction methodology of CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) which is one of a Kyoto mechanism. Although US is not a member of Annex 1 country of Kyoto protocol, other countries such as EU countries, Australia and Japan will be able to have opportunities to obtain carbon credits (CER) by CCS in China. The first committment period of Kyoto protocol will end in 2012, but most country will be eligible to have carbon reduction projects and carbon credits (CERs, ERUs, AAUs) beyond 2012. I hope US join a new framework in the future and develop CCS technology to reduce carbons.

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