Environmental regulators from both China and the United States are officially in agreement about working together to address pollution issues.
During her first official visit to China as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson joined China’s Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian in signing an agreement that the two nations will work together on pollution issues.
Nasdaq’s news service reported that the countries agreed to collaborate on, "the prevention and management of air pollution, water pollution, pollution from persistent organic pollutants and other toxic substances, hazardous and solid waste, and the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental law."
The agreement is not the first of its kind. In fact, the pact is a renewal of an agreement that expired in 2008. This time, the agreement includes the creation of a committee that will develop agreements on science and technological advancements. The committee will be chaired by Jackson and Shengxian, and its next meeting will occur in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16-17. After that, the committee will meet every two years.
The initial impression of the agreement is that it's a nice formality and a symbol that both countries are in cooperation about combating climate change. But, first impressions are probably as far as anyone can go.
China’s roll in climate change is paramount. On one hand, the nation continues to make major investments in renewable energy sources, but it also continues to build coal power plants at a furious pace. The nation tends to resist any outside influence over its policies. Considering that China holds so much debt from developed nations like the United States, it is also difficult for other countries to encourage the nation to develop a different energy policy.
Politically, however, the symbol of a China-U.S. partnership may prove valuable. The fact that China has not jumped on board with any substantial climate agreements in the past has provided Washington politicians with easy talking points to back up their resistance to any real climate policy in the United States. Essentially, the company line has been, “if China isn’t going to do anything, why should we?” Of course, few in Washington articulate the other side of that argument: “If the U.S. isn’t going to do anything, why should China?”
This pact could be a tiny small step towards combating this game of apathetic brinksmanship. Furthermore, the next meeting of this climate committee comes after the midterm elections when the political craziness of the last several months is likely to be calmer. However, I'm guessing that craziness on some level will remain a factor.