California & China’s Environmental Accords – A Vital Partnership

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The State of California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, entered into an agreement this week with China to control carbon emissions and impact climate change. This type of agreement, usually entered into by two nations, marks a new way to make climate progress without involving Washington and its headaches. This relationship should be good news for both parties – leveraging California’s technological and China’s manufacturing strengths for the greater good.

California and China are two of the top greenhouse gas emitters in the world, so the pressure to clean up has been mounting for both. Fortunately for those of us in the United States, cleaning up became a priority for California much sooner than it did for China. California’s Silicon Valley has a wide range of environmental technology research and experience to share, while China has mastered quick and inexpensive manufacturing. The spotlight for workplace safety and environmental improvement is on China and the world is ready to support this effort.

The report, which is authored by Asia Society’s Center for U.S.-China Relations, explains which organizations will be involved in this new effort. The following are the four economic sectors outlined in the report:

  1. Low-carbon Electricity Systems: California is pioneering the transition away from fossil fuel generation toward high levels of renewable energy and is addressing the practical problem of maintaining high reliability and low cost while using energy sources that vary with the wind and sunshine. China meanwhile is undertaking a vast expansion of non-fossil fuel generation by 2020. Both sides can benefit from each other’s experience and know-how.
  2. Low-emission Vehicles: As its vehicle ownership grows rapidly, even while air quality worsens, China is looking at how California is addressing its own pollution problems and working with auto manufacturers to build cars that reduce both CO2 emissions and pollutants that damage human health.
  3. Energy Efficient Buildings, Industry, and Appliances: California has saved billions of dollars and avoided the need to build new power plants and natural gas pipelines by saving energy. Chinese leaders increasingly understand that lowering demand through energy efficiency is the best option for reducing pollution from energy supply. Both China and California face the challenge of determining how to increase consumer uptake of energy efficient technologies, which save money in the long run but often cost more up front.
  4. Forestry, Agriculture, and Waste Management: Both California and China are looking to grow their forests to store carbon and protect ecosystems. They are also both looking at ways of reducing the emissions of the potent greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide from fertilizer use, livestock operations, and waste treatment facilities (Page 7, A Vital Partnership).

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The Asia Society report, titled “A Vital Partnership: California and China Collaborating on Clean Energy and Combating Climate Change ” can be viewed in its entirety courtesy of Asia Society here.

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