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Unity a big winner in climate change fight

China-US urban partnerships prove to be potent antidote to threat of division

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-17 09:33
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Gavin Newsom, governor of the US state of California, visits the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall in Beijing, capital of China, Oct 26, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Despite strained national relations, US and Chinese cities are forging strong partnerships in the fight against climate change, highlighting inspiring instances of joint work at the subnational level.

Momentum for such cooperative efforts has been given a fillip through high-profile exchanges such as that of a visit to China by the Governor of California Gavin Newsom in October.

This opened the door for further collaboration. Cities such as Rochester, Minnesota, followed suit, with its Mayor Kim Norton returning with a renewed commitment to clean energy.

"We came back as a city which made a pledge to be 100 percent renewable by 2030, and Rochester City Council has agreed to that," said Norton, inspired by China's dedication to electric vehicles.

She talked of her experience in China late last year at a recent forum in Berkeley, California, at which local officials from both countries talked about best practices and lessons learned.

"Because we learned from another city, at the subnational level we came home with the energy to tackle these issues."

Not only her own community but also other US cities could also benefit from such exchanges, she said.

During her visit, she was particularly struck by China's aggressive pursuit of electrification.

"In Nanjing, 87 percent of the fleet is electric. We have two electric buses in my city, and two more ready for delivery. We wanted to purchase 10 more but are unable to get them."

This stark contrast reminded US cities of "setting a goal for doing better in this country" by adopting similar strategies, she said.

Electric vehicles were not the only thing Norton learned about. She pointed to China's innovative approaches to battery leasing and cooperative procurement as strategies that could help US cities.

Another crucial area for learning, Norton said, was the management of heating, cooling and wastewater, areas in which Chinese cities have developed innovative, large-scale solutions that could inform US practices.

Infrastructure development

The infrastructure development she witnessed in China also stood out to Norton as a potential area for further bilateral collaboration. This sentiment was echoed by Jin Xiaohu, deputy secretary-general of Suzhou, Jiangsu province, who detailed the city's progress in using clean energy, green manufacturing and data-driven energy management.

"We invite experts and colleagues from the United States to Suzhou," Jin said, highlighting the potential for collaboration to achieve carbon peak and neutrality goals.

On the US side, the Mayor of Blytheville, Arkansas, Melisa Logan, recognizing the similarities between the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers, extended an invitation to Chinese counterparts to help in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change in the Mississippi Delta.

Since 2005 it has suffered significant economic losses as a result of flooding and droughts exacerbated by climate change, said Logan, who said working with China is crucial to mitigating these problems.

She is calling for Chinese participation in the Mississippi River Cities and Towns initiative to foster mutual understanding and collaboration in managing river systems in the face of climate change.

In a conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in September some guests from the Yangtze River region will come to talk about their experience with best practice, Logan said.

"We have a great relationship with China, and we want to keep that relationship, and we want to build upon it and grow it."

This subnational collaboration is expected to yield tangible results this year. The collaborative efforts are scheduled for showcasing at events such as Climate Week NYC in September and COP29 in Azerbaijan in November, the California-China Climate Institute said.

Partnerships are also expanding, as seen in the fourth China-Oregon Climate Change and Sustainability Forum, to be co-hosted by Oregon, the city of Tianjin and Fujian province this year.

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