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Ideas for a better world in 2011

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Workers rest on steps near an advertisement showing a wind turbine outside the venue of a green industry expo in Beijing, Nov. 25, 2010.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP

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Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

HENRY M. PAULSON JR., former US Treasury secretary and former chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs

Idea: US and China should team up to clean up

Mr. Paulson writes: The United States and China should together eliminate all tariffs on clean technology products, galvanizing global action on the seemingly intractable issues of trade and environmental protection.

New clean technologies are the only way to continue the economic growth that will raise living standards across the globe while also mitigating its effects on our climate, water, and air. And it is not enough to simply develop these technologies – they must be deployed at scale to have an impact.

But bringing this technology to the people who need it is hindered by high tariff and nontariff barriers that many nations place on environmental goods and services.

Take one simple but powerful example: There is a water technology available right now that could help local communities reduce the pollution entering rivers from power plants. Yet in China, for instance, a tariff of 22 percent on water filters makes this technology too expensive for many communities to adopt.

As the two largest economies in the world, the two largest emitters of carbon, and the two largest importers of oil, the US and China, acting together, can have a big enough impact to jump-start progress.

China and the US could follow their own action with a coordinated effort to persuade the other nations in the Group of 20 to do the same. These nations represent 80 percent of global carbon emissions, and a similar share of global trade.

Joint US and Chinese leadership on removing trade barriers to clean technologies would be a small but significant step that could catalyze the broader action so urgently required.

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