July 19, 2010

Nations To Meet On Clean Energy Cooperation

During an upcoming meeting in Washington DC the world's top economies will look for ways to work together on clean energy, bringing a rare act of cooperation amid a deadlock in drafting a new climate change accord.

Energy officials and delegates from 21 nations will meet Monday and Tuesday in Washington in an initiative by President Barack Obama's administration, which has made the creation of green jobs a top priority.

The two-day meeting will feature announcements of joint initiatives among the top economies, who together account for 80 percent of the world's gross domestic product, said the US Energy Dept.

The major economies have been in disagreement over the shape of the next climate treaty, with developed nations seeking binding commitments from growing economies, such as China, to cut carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Clean energy has been a common topic for the two biggest polluters -- China and the US. During a trip to China last year Obama signed a five-year, 150 million-dollar plan for the two nations to collaborate on developing electric vehicles and clean coal.

US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said Friday at the White House: "the development of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies could spur the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century."

"The race is wide open for which country will become the epicenter of innovation, and the destination for the capital, businesses and jobs that come with it," he added.

The Obama administration has repeatedly made it clear that the United States is behind many European and Asian nations in the development of green technology. It said the meeting will look for ways in which all nations can work together to bring about clean energy.

Topics that will be open for discussion at the meeting will include energy-efficiency standards, solar and wind power, and ways to provide energy to those without, said US assistant secretary of energy for international affairs David Sandalow.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, did not think the meeting would sort out issues pertaining to the Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations expire in 2012.

"But if this is the low-hanging fruit that can show that countries can cooperate to get something done together, that could improve the mood," he told the AFP news agency.

Terje Riis-Johansen, Norway's petroleum and energy minister praised the US for assembling the meeting and hoped it would "establish a global partnership to raise production of and access to clean energy."

"A greater reliance on clean energy is needed to solve climate change," he said.

Riis-Johansen plans to visit New Orleans to learn lessons of the BP oil spill for Norway, whose oil industry is almost entirely offshore.

The meeting in Washington comes as Obama presses Congress to approve the first-ever US plan to require carbon emission cuts. The House of Representatives approved a plan more than a year ago, but legislation has faced stiff opposition in the Senate.

Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are the 21 nations taking part in the two-day clean energy gathering.

Indonesia was invited but its minister had a scheduling conflict, Sandalow said.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger will also attend the meeting.


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