By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and China, the world's top emitters of greenhouse gases, agreed to five initiatives on Wednesday to cut carbon output from the largest sources, including heavy duty vehicles, manufacturing and coal-fired plants, the State Department said.
The U.S.-China climate change working group, which officials from both countries formed in April, will work with companies and non-governmental groups to develop plans by October to carry out the measures aimed at fighting climate change and cutting pollution.
The initiatives are also aimed at improving energy efficiency, collection and management of greenhouse gas data, and promoting electric grids to carry more power from renewable energy.
The group agreed to the measures at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held at the State Department. The two-day meeting ends on Thursday.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew hosted a Chinese delegation, led by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang, at the talks that cover both economics and wider geopolitical issues.
The climate agreements will concentrate on improving technologies, and will not be binding and will not seek to cut emissions by specific volumes. Still, the hope is any cooperation could help lend support to wider international talks on greenhouse gas reductions and help finalize a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change by 2015.
"On the one hand it's not suddenly going to transform the negotiations, I'm absolutely not saying that, but ... it will project something positive that I think will be helpful," U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters in a teleconference.
China and the United States are responsible for about 43 percent of global greenhouse gas output.
Increasing the ability of the two countries to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired plants and to bury them underground was also the focus of one of Wednesday's agreements.
The goal is to move from the research and development phase to large scale demonstration projects, Stern said. "It's certainly not the case that we are going to be financing large-scale CCS (carbon capture and storage) plants in China, per se, but rather to try to spur the development of them there and also here."
Wednesday's move builds on an agreement last month by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to cooperate in phasing out production and consumption of gases used in refrigerants and air conditioners.
The so-called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, came into wide commercial use to replace ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. They make up roughly 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but use of the chemicals is rising at a rate of up to 9 percent a year.
Stern said China and the United States are trying to develop alternatives to HFCs, not all of which are fully available.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Richard Chang)