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China recognizes the importance of climate change

By Chen Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-01 10:25

US academics and think tanks are applauding the latest move by California and China to strengthen low carbon development to fight climate change.

"California can work with China and serve as a model for other states and even for the Congress,"Bob Berring,a professor at UC-Berkeley, told China Daily. "Exchanges with individual cities have been largely ceremonial in the past."

On Sept 13, California Governor Jerry Brown and thevice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission(NDRC) Xie Zhenhua signed a landmark agreement committing to joint efforts to support low carbon development across economic sectors.

"The agreement between China and California represents an important stop in international cooperation," Berring said.

The federal structure of the United States, which limits the power of the national government and which retains some sovereign power in each state makes such innovations possible, he said.

"Global warming and carbon dioxide emission reduction cannot be resolved through the efforts of any single entity," George Koo, a Chinese community leader in the San Francisco Bay Area and international business consultant, told China Daily. "Real abatement takes global collaboration."

Since the state of California has been the thought and action leader for the United States, the NDRC is to be congratulated for selecting the right partner for collaboration, he said.

The agreement was first discussed during California Governor Jerry Brown's California trade mission to China in April 2013. The governor's itinerary included a speech on climate change at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the opening of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai.

Brown said earlier he saw "the partnership between provinces in China, and the state of California as a catalyst and as a lever to change policies in the US and ultimately change policies throughout the world".

"The fact that the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China is entering into an agreement with one of the 50 states reflects the important position of California not only in the economy, but in science, technology and climate change initiatives," he said at the signing ceremony in San Francisco.

California has grown into the world's eighth largest economy while holding per capita electricity consumption flat for thirty years, and the Golden State is well known for its deep, long-term experience with energy efficiency.

It has already passed the most ambitious greenhouse gas limits in the US.

In early September, California's clean-fuel standard was just upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and it will largely reduce the climate change impacts caused by transportation in the state.

It was a 2-1 decision that requires the oil industry to work on the "carbon intensity" reduction of transportation fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.

More similar initiatives will follow after signing of the agreement with China, which reflects California's stature in the world as a leader in climate change policy, and California's willingness to engage the international community, said Stanley Wong, managing director of China Business Programs at the School of Management of University of San Francisco.

"It is clear that China, the world's second-largest economy, recognizes its environmental problems and is devoting the nation's considerable might with focused actions in the 12th Five-Year Plan, (2005-10)" he said.

"China and the United States are the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters. Climate change has become a priority for the Chinese Government as people have realized that it is taking a severe economic and human toll," he said.

Over the past few decades, China has virtually reshaped the global economy and has taken giant steps to deal with climate change. China's pursuit of green growth and its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be crucial for protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development for the next generation, he said.

This agreement indicates activities to mitigate carbon emissions while enabling economic growth, reducing energy consumption, increasing the use of electrified transportation, and supporting capital investments in clean and efficient energy and infrastructure, he added.

According to the latest report from ChinaEconomic Weekly, Chinese policy makers haven't reached a consensus on the "timetable" and "rate" of a tax on CO2.

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