Cli­mate change: the great uni­fier

Al­most two years ago, China and the state of Cal­i­for­nia signed a first-of-its-kind agree­ment to co­op­er­ate on cli­mate change is­sues. Now the two are shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence, re­search and per­son­nel, QI­DONG ZHANG re­ports from San Fran­cisco.

China Daily (Canada) - - IN DEPTH -

Ana­tion­wide poll of Amer­i­cans re­leased this week showed by an al­most two-to-one mar­gin that they are will­ing to bear the costs of com­bat­ing cli­mate change. By 62 per­cent to 33 per­cent, re­spon­dents said they would pay more for en­ergy if it would mean a re­duc­tion in pol­lu­tion from car­bon emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg Na­tional Poll pub­lished on Tues­day.

“It is a rare poll where people re­spond­ing will stand up and say ‘tax me,’” said J. Ann Selzer, founder of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co, which con­ducted the June 6-9 poll of 1,005 US adults that had a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus 3.1 per­cent­age points.

While Amer­i­cans sup­port tak­ing ac­tion on cli­mate change, 53 per­cent in the sur­vey said they doubt Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s as­ser­tion that a re­duc­tion of soot and smog will lead to sub­stan­tial health ben­e­fits.

“It’s not go­ing to work un­less the rest of the world is go­ing to do it, too,” said Betty Wieland, 77, a re­tired nurse from Modesto, Cal­i­for­nia. “China is more than mak­ing up for any­thing we do in cli­mate change.”

But Wieland’s home state of Cal­i­for­nia — the world’s eighth largest econ­omy — and China — the world’s sec­ond-largest — are work­ing to­gether on cli­mate prob­lems.

It was in Septem­ber 2013 that China and Cal­i­for­nia signed a two-year agree­ment to co­op­er­ate on cli­mate change is­sues. The Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) was signed by Gover­nor Jerry Brown, and China’s Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion Vice-Chair­man, Xie Zhen­hua. pro­tec­tion, and clean and re­new­able en­ergy.

“This dates in part to Cal­i­for­nia’s ex­pe­ri­ence since the 1960s, when dense smog blan­keted the Los Angeles basin, im­pair­ing vis­i­bil­ity and low­er­ing air qual­ity. Re­me­dial mea­sures since then have yielded dra­matic im­prove­ments in re­gional air qual­ity, with emis­sion con­trol poli­cies now be­ing im­ple­mented on a statewide ba­sis,’’ he said in an email to China Daily.

“Cal­i­for­nia has also led the United States in the de­vel­op­ment of en­ergy ef­fi­ciency stan­dards, a pol­icy set that has led to fall­ing per ca­pac­ity en­ergy con­sump­tion in Cal­i­for­nia over time, while en­ergy con­sump­tion per capita has been ris­ing na­tion­ally. This ex­pe­ri­ence is be­ing shared with China through the work of Lawrence Berke­ley Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory’s China En­ergy Group,” Ran­dolph said. ‘Im­por­tant path­way’

“Cli­mate change of­fers an additional and very im­por­tant path­way for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and China, based on shared in­ter­ests in re­duc­ing its causes and man­ag­ing its ef­fects. This, of course, is closely re­lated to the de­vel­op­ment and de­ploy­ment of al­ter­na­tive (non-fos­sil) en­ergy tech­nolo­gies, and im­prove­ments in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency at all lev­els.”

Ran­dolph said that while Cal­i­for­nia leads the US in these fields, im­ple­men­ta­tion is a work in progress:

“Cli­mate change is a global is­sue, and lead­ers in the state rec­og­nize that a so­lu­tion can only hap­pen through global co­op­er­a­tion. It is clear that in the end Cal­i­for­nia’s cli­mate poli­cies can­not be suc­cess­ful un­less they are co­or­di­nated with ma­jor part­ners such as China that are large en­ergy con­sumers and CO2 emit­ters. The fact that a sig­nif­i­cant amount of the air­borne pol­lu­tion in Cal­i­for­nia crosses the Pa­cific from China only strength­ens the case for en­vi­ron­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion.’’

Steve Westly, for­mer Cal­i­for­nia state con­troller and man­ag­ing part­ner of the Westly Group, said China in­stalled 14GW of wind power gen­er­a­tion and 12 GW of so­lar power gen­er­a­tion last year, com­pared to 1GW of wind and 4.3 GW of so­lar in the US.

“China is the world’s largest pro­ducer of hy­dro-elec­tric power. Coal power still ac­counts for 65 per­cent of all en­ergy con­sumed in China. The Chi­nese govern­ment’s goal is to dou­ble wind power ca­pac­ity by 2020 — that is a model the rest of the world would be smart to fol­low,” said Westly.

Richard Kram­lich, chair­man and co-founder of New En­ter­prise As­so­ciates (NEA), a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm that has in­vested more than $500 mil­lion in China, said so­lu­tions to air pol­lu­tion are straight­for­ward and sim­ple but they re­quire govern­ment ac­tion, in­clud­ing: quit coal, es­tab­lish clear, strict air qual­ity stan­dards and in­tro­duce ef­fec­tive pol­icy in­stru­ments to curb the rapid growth of the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the roads.

“There are many intermediate so­lu­tions for air pol­lu­tion, but all of which re­quire govern­ment to rec­og­nize the im­pact of air pol­lu­tion on pub­lic health and the econ­omy, and to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion. The Chi­nese govern­ment has made tremen­dous ef­fort at this point, and with joint ef­fort from US and China’s high­tech break­throughs, it will im­prove but it just takes time. Elec­tric cars should def­i­nitely be en­cour­aged via in­cen­tive poli­cies in China, and coal mines should be even­tu­ally elim­i­nated,” said Kram­lich.

Kram­lich’s top pri­or­i­ties in­clude: tight­en­ing con­trols for power plant emis­sions to re­duce emis­sions, in­tro­duc­ing cleaner fuel stan­dards and switch­ing to elec­tric ve­hi­cles, restrict­ing the con­struc­tion of power plants and other en­ergy-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries near res­i­den­tial ar­eas, im­prove ur­ban plan­ning to in­crease green spa­ces, and tak­ing air qual­ity into con­sid­er­a­tion when con­duct­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments for ma­jor projects; for ex­am­ple, fly­overs and high­ways should be far away from res­i­den­tial ar­eas. In­creas­ing dis­trust

Robert Wu, chair­man of the US-China Green En­ergy Coun­cil, said al­though new EPA reg­u­la­tions have stim­u­lated many Sil­i­con Val­ley green-en­ergy in­no­va­tions in the in­dus­tries of IT, mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions, cloud com­put­ing and big data anal­y­sis, both the US and China are fac­ing ex­treme weather con­di­tions, and there is an in­creas­ing dis­trust of each other and blame on how to han­dle this world is­sue.

“Both coun­tries should look at the big pic­ture and grasp op­por­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate as the world is fac­ing the big­gest chal­lenge of global warm­ing, de­grad­ing liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We are both the largest pol­luters in the world, but we have to join hands to at­tack cli­mate change and meet the chal­lenge. In the process we will learn to re­spect each other, trust­ing each other and form a win-win team to fight for the wel­fare of mankind,” said Wu.

Ran­dolph of the Bay Area Coun­cil said meet­ings with Chi­nese of­fi­cials dur­ing Cal­i­for­nia Gover­nor Jerry Brown’s April 2013 trip to China par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on is­sues of cli­mate and en­ergy, and the op­por­tu­nity to share ex­pe­ri­ence.

“A num­ber of MOUs signed dur­ing and af­ter the trip laid the ground­work for fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion. These in­clude an agree­ment with the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion to co­op­er­ate on air pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion, an MOU on en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion in low car­bon de­vel­op­ment with the govern­ment of Guang­dong Prov­ince, an MOU on en­vi­ron­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau, and an MOU with the China Cham­ber of Com­merce for Im­port and Ex­port of Ma­chin­ery and Elec­tronic Prod­ucts to cre­ate a Pa­cific Clean Air Part­ner­ship. These agree­ments cre­ate a unique plat­form for fu­ture ex­changes to ad­dress shared con­cerns and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Great in­ter­est

Robert B. Weisen­miller, chair of Cal­i­for­nia’s En­ergy Com­mis­sion, is one of the key people work­ing with China on the cli­mate is­sue.

“The Chi­nese govern­ment is very in­ter­ested in work­ing with us on cli­mate chan­g­ere­lated is­sues, es­pe­cially when it comes to in­tro­duc­ing green-en­ergy tech­nol­ogy, green-house en­ergy, and ad­dress­ing so­lu­tions of air pol­lu­tion, air qual­ity in China,’’ he said on June 5 in San Fran­cisco at a panel dis­cus­sion on the part­ner­ship be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and China.

“We have been work­ing on dif­fer­ent MOUs with Guang­dong prov­ince, Bei­jing En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bureau, Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, Jiangsu prov­ince, Shen­zhen city and even Shan­dong prov­ince of last week, and will have to make sure it’s im­ple­mented in Cal­i­for­nia.’’

Matthew Ro­driquez, who was ap­pointed Cal­i­for­nia’s sec­re­tary for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion by Brown in 2011, over­sees the Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board, the depart­ment of Toxic Sub­stances Con­trol, the depart­ment of Pes­ti­cide Reg­u­la­tion, the of­fice of En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Haz­ard As­sess­ment, and the Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board. As a mem­ber of Brown’s cab­i­net, he ad­vises the gover­nor on en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy.

“When we were in China, ev­ery meet­ing we had with Chi­nese govern­ment and or­ga­ni­za­tions, the is­sue of cli­mate was brought up. I think the mu­tual un­der­stand­ing is there, it’s just a mat­ter of how we could com­bine re­sources of the two coun­tries to make it hap­pen. With our ex­pe­ri­ence in the past, I be­lieve we can work to­gether to help China make the tran­si­tion from mak­ing coal at the provin­cial and city lev­els, and I be­lieve we could em­brace chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties bet­ter,” he said at the panel dis­cus­sion.

“Our agree­ments with China have led to pro­duc­tive, sub­stan­tive ex­changes across a range of ar­eas, from en­ergy ef­fi­ciency to re­new­able en­ergy to emis­sions trad­ing. Cal­i­for­nia has ex­pe­ri­ence and suc­cess in these ar­eas, and our China part­ners are in­ter­ested in learn­ing from us. At the same time, we know we have a great deal to learn from them.” Con­tact the writer at kel­lyzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

AGENCIES

The China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion (CCTV) build­ing is seen next to a con­struc­tion site in heavy haze in Bei­jing’s cen­tral busi­ness district.

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