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Global warming an opportunity for China, US
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A recent popular movie focused hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese and Americans on a cartoon character, Kung Fu Panda. It was a story set in ancient China about a panda bear who aspires to be a kung fu master. Although the movie and character did not necessarily represent Chinese culture, it increased the already intense interest in the US on all things Chinese.

The visit this week to Beijing by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not garner as much attention and adoration from ordinary people as Kung Fu Panda, but it is an historic visit nonetheless. It will be watched closely by people around the world. They will be watching for signs of leadership, signs of partnership and signs of a common commitment to end both the most serious economic crisis the world has faced in decades and the most profound environmental crisis humanity has ever faced: global warming.

This year is significant for many reasons, among them the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China; the 30th anniversary of the late leader Deng Xiaoping's visit to the United States; and the first year in office of an already historic US President.

Most importantly, it is the year in which the international community, meeting in Copenhagen in December, must agree on urgent and dramatic action to avert the looming climate disaster and define the path toward a more sustainable, more survivable future. Strong leadership from the US and China, acting together, is essential to reaching an agreement in Copenhagen.

The summer melting of the Arctic, more severe hurricanes in the US, drought in China and Africa, wildfires in Australia; these impacts are all signs of an increasingly chaotic climate system that will undermine the economic and development goals of all nations.

Time is running out. Dr James Hansen, a leading climatologist from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), recently stated that the world is now in "imminent peril". Dr Qin Dahe from the Chinese Academy of Sciences also stated "Climate change has already brought severe and obvious threats to the economic and social development of China".

The window for avoiding that peril is narrow, and closing rapidly, but it is not yet closed. With the right leadership, the world can bring global greenhouse gas emissions under control, set them on a downward trajectory, and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.

The current economic crisis provides an unprecedented opportunity to make future investments in a way that creates jobs, rebuilds critical infrastructure and lays the foundation for a new clean energy economy in both nations.

Greenpeace suggests China and the United States explore deeper collaboration between their energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, to create a new development model to meet energy demands, and quickly move both nations away from coal and its associated human health and environmental impacts. Just as importantly, we suggest both nations work together to outline a financial mechanism that is equitable, workable and adequate to foster greener development not only in China but throughout Southern Nations.

China has begun work on a new energy law that places strong emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrating that greener development is not only possible but desirable. Should the new Energy Law be passed, it would provide guidance for China's energy strategy in its 12th Five Year Plan.

On the other side of the Pacific, the United States has developed an economic stimulus package that includes substantial investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, indicating that economic recovery and environmental sustainability are mutually supportive goals.

As the largest global greenhouse emitters, the United States and China have an historic opportunity to show decisive leadership. Commitments from both nations may differ but the urgency of the task facing us means every nation must play their part. There are encouraging signs that the two nations have already started some Ping Pong diplomacy on climate and energy issues in the lead up to this week's meeting.

The world currently faces much larger hurdles than kung fu panda ever faced but, like him, we hope that our leaders "prepare for awesomeness" as the movie suggests. We hope that Secretary Clinton's meeting with the Government of the People's Republic of China will be remembered by Chinese and American people as a critical step that resulted in a legacy of climate protection, clean energy and stronger, sustainable economies. It will take work, it will take commitment, it will take leadership, but it will leave an important environmental legacy for China and our planet.

The author, Sze Pang Cheung, is the Campaign Director of Greenpeace China.

(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2009)

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