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[BEIJING] The UK prime minister Gordon Brown's visits to China and India have strengthened the relationship between the two biggest developing countries and rich nations in fighting climate change.

The UK and Chinese governments signed an agreement in Beijing last week (18 January) in which the United Kingdom promises to offer £50 million (US$100 million) from the UK's environment funds in beneficial loans — with no or low interest rates — or grants for research into climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This is in addition to existing joint research programmes, which are heavily financed by the UK government.

The two governments also agreed to upgrade the Sino-UK climate change working group from vice-ministry level to ministry level and to enhance cooperation in clean energy technologies.

John Warburton, senior environment adviser of the China Office of the UK's Department for International Development, says the significance of the joint announcement is that the climate change fight has been extended from cooperation between single government departments to multi-sectoral participation.

"The deal will help promote various stakeholders in the two countries to join the fight, especially the private sector, which is key to technological and financial resource transfer," she told SciDev.Net.

Meanwhile, British Petroleum and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have signed an agreement to undertake a feasibility study on a proposed joint venture in build a clean energy commercialisation centre in China.

The centre plans to commercialise various clean energies — including coal gasification, producing liquid fuel and chemicals from coal, carbon capture and storage — from CAS institutes and other organisations both within and outside China.

Xu Ang, an official with CAS's international bureau in charge of the BP project, says that the joint centre will help results from basic research done by CAS institutes to go to the market. "We are in urgent need of advanced management and experience from the partner," he says.

Brown's visit to China followed a two-day trip to India, which ended on Monday (21 January).

Cooperation in climate change research was also high on India's agenda. Under an ongoing Indo-UK agreement on climate change mitigation and adaptation studies, the two countries announced the initiation of a new project to identify barriers to low carbon technology transfers.

In Delhi, Brown also announced the establishment of a Research Councils UK (RCUK) office in India that — along with India's Department of Science and Technology (DST) — will form a "science bridges initiative" to foster collaboration between individual research institutes. Each side will contribute £4 million (US$8 million) to the initiative.