BEIJING — While the North Korean issue has dominated headlines around Secretary of State John F. Kerry's visit with Chinese leaders Saturday, the two nations quietly joined in a forward-leaning "joint statement" calling for more action by global leaders to get tough in response to "climate change."
"The United States of America and the People's Republic of China recognize that the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative," the two nations said in a statement issued to U.S. reporters and members of the Chinese media on Saturday night.
"The two sides have been engaged in constructive discussions through various channels over several years bilaterally and multilaterally, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process and the Major Economies Forum," the statement read. "In addition, both sides consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action crucial to having a global impact on climate change."
The issue of climate change and pollution has gained notably traction in Chinese political circles during recent years since the capitol city of Beijing is widely regarded as having increasing difficulty with smog and other air quality issues.
Smog lay thick in the air as Mr. Kerry arrived in the city on Saturday morning.
While it is common to see residents wearing surgical masks — partially to protect from the spread of common diseases and partially to block the flow of polluted particles into their lungs — life in the city carries on unabated.
A U.S. official speaking casually with a reporter from The Washington Times, however, suggested the smog was thick enough that "if we were in Los Angeles, everyone would be like 'stay inside!'
The joint statement, meanwhile, noted a "sharp rise in global average temperatures over the past century, the alarming acidification of our oceans, the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events occurring all over the world."
"Forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China — including large-scale cooperative action — is more critical than ever," the statement read. "Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world."
In order to achieve this goal of elevating the climate change challenge as a higher priority, the two countries agreed to initiate a "Climate Change Working Group," which will "begin immediately to determine and finalize ways in which they can advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy."
Both sides also noted a "common interest in developing and deploying new environmental and clean energy technologies that promote economic prosperity and job creation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
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