All climate change local: summit
The battle against climate change starts on the local level, as city, state and provincial officials met for the first US-China Climate Leaders Summit on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“We are actually providing these leaders across China and the US this opportunity … to share with their counterparts their lessons and failures, their success and expertise,” said Xie Zhenhua, special representative on climate change affairs at the National Development and Reform Commission of China.
Xie spoke at a press conference during the two-day summit, where officials from both nations vowed to launch closer collaboration among cities, state and provinces across the Pacific and to retain strong momentum on climate-change issues.
The summit also looked to build on the historic joint announcement by President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama in Beijing last November. The climate likely will be a topic during Xi’s state visit to the United States next week.
Recognizing the differences in social systems and development stages between China and the US, leaders of the world’s two largest economies agreed last year that the US would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025, while China pledged to achieve its peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to reach the goal sooner.
Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change at the US State Department, called the joint announcement “historic” and said it has proven that the US and China can work together to solve tough climate issues.
“There are more than 100 nations in the climate conversation. Each of them count,” said Stern, adding that communication and dialogue are the keys to negotiations.
With its theme of low-carbon cities and smart cities, the summit serves many purposes, Xie said.
“First, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate that both the US and China are stepping up their efforts to implement and materialize the goals set in the joint announcement,” he said, adding that the Chinese delegation is composed of 11 governors and mayors.
“Those cities have been enlisted in our national low-carbon pilot program and spread out from the coastal east to inner land west,” said Xie. “They are the pioneers to field-test new ideas and development models by striking a balance between economic growth, quality of life and environmental protection.
“Secondly, we believe the world’s biggest developed country and the biggest developing country can cooperate with each other and take concrete actions to tackle the climate change problems, and create win-win situations for both,” said Xie, adding that the talks will help set the stage for the UN climate conference in Paris in December.
The achievements the subnational leaders from both counties have made “are inspiring and very impressive,” Stern said.
Beijing and Guangzhou, for example, pledged to peak their emissions by 2020, 10 years earlier than the projected national targets, said Stern.
The governors of California and Connecticut attended the summit, as well as mayors from Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle and Phoenix.
“California is to reduce emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050; Seattle vows to become carbon-neutral by 2050, and Houston is pushing forward the usage of clean energy and clean transportation,” Stern said.
US Vice–President Joe Biden and State Councilor and President Xi’s Special Envoy Yang Jiechi will attend the summit’s closing ceremony on Wednesday.
“Although we only have two days of sessions, I think the content is concrete and down to earth,” Xie said. “We will host in Beijing the next year the second US-China Climate Leaders Summit.”