"Science has shown that we are altering the destiny of our planet. The consequences of what we are doing today will not be fully realized for at least 100 years," U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a speech at Tsinghua University, Xinhua state news service reported.
Chu suggested that China and the United States, the largest greenhouse gas emitters, increase cooperation in clean energy sectors such as carbon dioxide capture and transformation.
In his speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said that China and the United States both share responsibility to address global warming. China has now surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of carbon dioxide.
"Fifty years from now, we do not want the world to lay the blame for environmental catastrophe at the feet of China," Locke said, The New York Times reported.
Clean energy, Locke said, represents "the greatest economic opportunity" of the 21st century, and both countries "are uniquely positioned to create the solar, wind, biofuel and other renewable technologies that the world wants and needs," Xinhua reported.
"We are here to advance what can be one of the most beneficial areas of cooperation in the history of U.S.-China relations: the development, production and deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies," Locke said.
Widespread deployment of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, Locke said, is "the only way our economies can continue to grow" while preventing the catastrophic effects of climate change.
"We need to empower U.S. and Chinese entrepreneurs and innovators to create and collaborate free from artificial trade barriers."
"Meeting the challenge will require more than just concerted governmental action," Locke said, pointing out that American companies have considerable advanced technology that can assist China in its clean energy transition.
Chu and Chinese officials Wednesday announced a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center. Joint research and development will initially focus on clean coal, energy efficiency for buildings and clean vehicles. The United States and China together pledged $15 million for initial financing, with headquarters in each country at locations not yet determined.
Thursday meetings for Chu and Locke included a briefing by State Grid officials on efforts to help China's power transmission infrastructure use more clean and renewable energy.
They also met with Huaneng Group Chairman Cao Peixi regarding the company's integrated carbon capture and sequestration project under way at the company's power plant in Tianjin.
Chu said the United States would cooperate with China on such projects, under the Joint Clean Energy Research Center announced Wednesday. CCS, for example, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from a conventional power plant by as much as 95 percent.
In addition, Chu announced a joint China-U.S. project on energy-efficient building designs and renewable energy-based communities. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, China accounts for nearly half the new floor space built in the world.
China is the world's largest consumer of coal, more than double that of the United States. Coal accounts for nearly 80 percent of China's electricity generation.