China / World

Bridges built on climate partnership

By Liu Yinmeng in Los Angeles (China Daily) Updated: 2019-11-12 07:18

Former California governor Jerry Brown believes he has found a way to forge a greater understanding between China and the United States at time of conflict between the world's two largest economies.

He has championed the California-China Climate Change Institute, which leverages the educational resources of two top universities - the University of California, Berkeley and Tsinghua University in Beijing. They will work closely with experts and policymakers from both countries to "accelerate climate action", Brown said.

Brown aims to "keep the door of communication open" between the two countries amid their trade dispute.

"China and California are leading states, both in their emissions of carbon, greenhouse gases and in their effort to curb those emissions," Brown said in a recent interview.

Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate official, said in a statement: "Climate change is a common threat faced by human society. I deeply appreciate Governor Brown's great contribution and leadership in addressing climate change during his tenure as governor.

"I hope the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University can continue deep collaboration with Governor Brown's team."

Brown, who announced the initiative in September alongside Xie, has been building a partnership with China on climate during and after his term as governor.

The 81-year-old Brown, who left office in January, visited China in 2013 and 2017. The institute was put together after he met President Xi Jinping during a 2017 trip to Beijing.

"All of that led to the idea that there's this special relationship between California and China, and we can build on that special relationship, and take steps to reduce our carbon emissions, and work together in a way that could foster, not only greater climate action, but greater understanding and collaboration between China and California, and ultimately the US, at a time of rising tension," he said.

Although China is the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, it has been making strides in recent years in combating climate change.

In 2018, the country announced that it will have achieved the goal of reducing carbon intensity per unit of GDP from 2005 by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

It also has invested heavily in renewable energy solutions, including solar and wind technology, as well as battery storage.

In the US, California has been at the forefront of reducing carbon emissions.

California said its statewide carbon emissions fell to 429 million metric tons in 2016, a decrease of 12 million tons from the previous year. The state has adopted aggressive environmental policies and initiatives such as cap-and-trade, a program that requires big industrial companies to pay to obtain their rights to emit carbon.

However, California's efforts have faced heightened opposition from US President Donald Trump, who has called global warming a hoax. In addition to pulling out of the Paris climate accord, the administration has focused on dismantling climate policies in the state.

Brown said that he recognized that California "couldn't do it alone".

"If we don't have the parallel effort, along the same objectives, then California's rules will be taken over by the federal government, and those rules won't exist, and they will be preemptive, and rendered invalid, that's the functional reason, the functional utility of California and (China) joining together," Brown said.

As an example, Brown pointed to the US automobile industry. California alone couldn't impose rules to get car companies to automatically reduce their carbon emissions. But if California and China, with its huge car market, work together to adopt similar standards, they could require companies to produce a higher percentage of zero-emission cars, he said.

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