In a statement following U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit with Chinese leaders Saturday in Beijing, officials from the countries said "the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative."
Chinese and U.S. officials said they had initiated a "Climate Change Working Group" which will "begin immediately to determine and finalize ways in which they can advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation and alternative and renewable energy."
Both countries also said they had a "common interest in developing and deploying new environmental and clean energy technologies that promote economic prosperity and job creation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
The group, to be headed by Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department's special envoy for climate change and Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, is to present a report at the next meeting of the joint Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington in July.
The countries cited "overwhelming scientific consensus" regarding climate change -- including a sharp rise in global average temperatures over the past century, the "alarming acidification" of oceans, rapid loss of arctic sea ice and extreme weather events occurring worldwide -- which they said "constitutes a compelling call to action."
"Forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China -- including large-scale cooperative action -- is more critical than ever," the statement read. "Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world."
Separately, in his remarks Saturday, Kerry referred to the initiative as "the best of international and government-to-government cooperation," adding that it is important because China and the United States represent the world's two biggest economies, the world's two largest consumers of energy and the two largest emitters of global greenhouse gasses.
Kerry noted that in 2001, Chinese companies invested $1 million in a single energy-related deal in the United States. By 2012, China had more than 70 energy deals with investments in the United States valued at nearly $9 billion.
Kerry's first visit to Beijing as secretary of state and comes amid a series of intense smog episodes that has hit the capital city over the past few months.
"China's leaders recognize -- we've seen important statements from the state councilor, from the president, from the premier -- all of them are embracing the fact that China needs to clean its air for its own citizens," Kerry said.