Report lauds California-China cooperation on climate change, clean energy initiatives

Monday, March 9, 2015

Geoffrey Cowan, Stephen Chu, and Orville Schell

MARCH 9, 2015 – From embedding Chinese observers into a vehicle emissions testing lab in El Monte to providing technical advice on energy efficient buildings in Shanghai, California partnerships with local and provincial entities in China is fostering the innovation the two countries need to make inroads against climate change.

In conjunction with The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, the Asia Society issued a new report, A Vital Partnership: California and China Collaborating on Clean Energy and Combatting Climate Change, on March 4 that details the various programs, both governmental and non-governmental, that are underway in California and China.

While the United States and China, two of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, announced a groundbreaking pledge in November to reduce those pollutants – an agreement that had its origins at President Barack Obama’s meeting with President Xi Jinping at Sunnylands – the California partnerships can serve as a model for how the two nations can cooperate to meet their goals, the report said.

“It’s a little bold to talk about the California-China partnership as if we were a separate nation. But we are a separate nation,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a half-day conference in San Francisco marking the release of the report. “We are a state of mind.”

Brown said California has consistently pushed the envelope in launching new programs aimed at addressing climate change, from passing a landmark law in 2006 to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels to initiating a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions – all without harming the state economy.

On the contrary, businesses have responded to meet the state’s low-carbon fuel standard program, he said. “California has driven economic enterprise.”

The event drew international coverage from news organizations such as USA Today and China Daily.

After the governor’s remarks, Geoffrey Cowan, then-president of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, and the report’s author, Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, sat down with former U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to discuss the partnerships California has forged with counterparts in China.

Chu said it is more than appropriate for California to establish working relationships with scientists and energy regulators in China to make progress on clean energy initiatives and emissions reductions.

“California has been a world leader,” said Chu, now a professor of molecular and cell physiology at Stanford University. “We have been most aggressive on clean air, clean water … . We are like a big country. We have this opportunity for world leadership and we are taking it.”

Others speaking at the conference included Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board; Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission; and Lynn Price, staff scientist and leader of the China Energy Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Each described programs their staffs have undertaken to work with the Chinese on various clean energy and climate change issues.

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses California’s efforts on clean air and climate change.

Geoffrey Cowan, president of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, former U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, and Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, discuss California and China partnerships on climate change.