President Obama and China’s Xi Jinping Make Climate Change Agreement

NEW YORK | Saturday, June 8th, 2013 7:12pm EDT

US President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have ended a two-day summit described by a US official as “unique, positive and constructive”.

President Barack Obama walks with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China on the grounds of the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., June 8, 2013. Photo: Pete Souza/The Official White House

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping ended their first US-China summit, forging a rapport and policy understandings, if not breakthroughs, on North Korea, climate and cyber issues.

The pair spent about eight hours together over Friday and Saturday at a sprawling retreat in the sun-baked desert near Palm Springs, California, an informal summit aimed at injecting some warmth into often chilly relations and providing the chance to talk about their differences openly.

US national security advisor Tom Donilon said the talks were “uniquely informal,” “constructive,” “wide-ranging,” and “positive” for a vital great power relationship which is often prickly and requires constant maintenance.

The agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday to wind down the production and consumption of a class of chemicals commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners could mark a key step toward eliminating some of the most potent greenhouse gases, reports the Washington Post.

For the first time, the United States and China will work together to persuade other countries, most notably holdouts such as Brazil and India, to join the effort to slash or eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

The chemical group currently accounts for only 2 percent of greenhouse gases, but consumption is growing exponentially as people in developing countries grow wealthy enough to purchase air conditioners.

A global push to get rid of HFCs could potentially reduce the greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050, equal to roughly two years’ worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions, experts estimate.

In addition Obama and Xi agreed to work together for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, following nuclear and missile tests and wild warnings of atomic warfare from North Korea, Beijing’s troublesome nominal ally.

They achieved “quite a bit of alignment” on the issue, US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said, and praised recent steps by Beijing to quietly rebuke inexperienced North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Obama meanwhile made clear that a rash of suspected Chinese cyber attacks on US commercial property and military technology would be an “inhibitor” to relations.

“What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships,” said Obama, adding that world was entering “uncharted waters” on the issue.

Donilon said that Xi “acknowledged” how important the issue was to Washington, and left California in no doubt where Obama stood.

At a news conference hosted by the Chinese following the summit, China State Councilor Yang Jiechi downplayed differences between the two countries on cybersecurity.

“China itself is also a victim of cyber attacks, and we are staunch supporter of cyber security,” Yang said. “On cyber security, China and the United States both are faced with similar challenges. Cyber security should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction between our two countries. Rather, it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation.”

The leaders also offered directions to working group officials from both sides due to sit down to discuss cyber issues in July, reports 7 News.

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