China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and on Thursday the Obama administration announced that the United States will help the Chinese government implement stricter emissions standards on cars and trucks. The announcement was made at the end of Vice President Joe Biden’s state visit to China. Under the agreement, the U.S. promised to provide China with technical assistance in implementing particulate regulations known as China VI.
“These standards, when implemented, will have significant air quality and climate benefits and reduce vehicle fuel use,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House. Using bilateral and multilateral diplomacy is a key part of Pres. Obama’s Climate Action Plan, aimed at controlling greenhouse gases, of which the U.S. and China are the world’s two biggest emitters.
Contributing to China’s pollution issues is the rapid growth of the country’s vehicle fleet. At the end of 2012, there were 120 passenger cars in China and according to the Chinese government, that figure will grow to over 200 million by 2020. To address increased pollution some of China’s larger cities have restricted new vehicle sales. The capital city of Beijing will have as many as 6 million private cars by 2015.
China is currently implementing the country’s fourth stage of emissions standards, which reduce sulfur content in diesel fuel down to 50 parts per million, compared to the U.S. standard of 15 ppm and the European Union’s 10 parts per million limit.
An unnamed U.S. official said that it is significant that China wants help jump starting the sixth stage of standards while it is still formulating implementation of the fifth stage. “The United States is interested in moving to China to six as soon as possible,” the official said. “It is a clear signal that China wants to move forward in an accelerated way that will have far-reaching impacts on air quality and public health.”
The U.S. EPA and Dept. of Energy will help their Chinese equivalents with modeling, testing and research aimed at developing the standards.
Also part of the agreement will be a reduction in the consumption of hydrofluorocarbons used as refrigerants, and a joint study aimed at phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in both countries.