The United States and China are launching a joint Clean Energy Research Center aimed at bolstering research and development of technologies to improve energy efficiency, carbon sequestration and low-emissions vehicles.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who is in China with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke for energy discussions, announced the effort in Beijing with Chinese Minister of Science Wan Gang and Administrator of National Energy Administration Zhang Guo Bao, according to the Energy Department.

The nations are initially pledging a combined $15 million to the effort and hope to launch operations by the end of the year. The centers would "facilitate" joint research and development by teams of scientists and engineers from both nations and also "serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country," DOE said. Locations in each nation have not been determined.

The plan would add to existing science and technology cooperation agreements between the two nations that began in 1979 following the normalization of relations.

A looming issue that is outside the scope of the cooperative agreements is whether -- and to what extent -- China and other developing countries will agree to firm emissions curbs as part of a hoped-for global climate treaty. China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Chu, speaking at a Chinese university, said growing Chinese emissions threaten to wipe out gains from Western efforts, even while acknowledging that developed Western countries have spewed most of the carbon dioxide currently built up in the atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal reported.

He said China could add more carbon dioxide in upcoming decades than all U.S. emissions since the Industrial Revolution, the Journal reported. "The developed world did make the problem, I admit that," Chu said, according to the account. "But the developing world can make it much worse."

Chu recently expressed confidence that developing nations will act to curb emissions because they are already seeing harmful effects of climate change and pointed to steps China is already taking to deploy less-emitting energy sources.

Locke, Chu and other U.S. officials have also stressed what they say would be economic benefits and business opportunities from enhanced efforts to deploy "green" technologies.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500