Cities urged to grow green economies

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By LIA ZHU and CHANG JUN in San Fran­cisco Con­tact the writ­ers at li­azhu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

The mes­sage from a cli­mate meet­ing on Thurs­day was that local gov­ern­ments in the United States and China need to take ac­tion to fa­cil­i­tate low­car­bon and green economies.

City lead­ers and ex­perts from the two coun­tries gath­ered on Thurs­day for the Global Cli­mate Ac­tion Sum­mit in San Fran­cisco. They shared lo­cal­level ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­plored ways to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions while sus­tain­ing eco­nomic growth.

Chi­nese Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Cli­mate Change Af­fairs Xie Zhen­hua said in his speech at the open­ing plenary that local gov­ern­ments, en­ter­prises and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions have had re­mark­able achieve­ments in low-car­bon de­vel­op­ment.

He also said China will step up ef­forts to im­ple­ment ex­ist­ing poli­cies to en­sure 100 per­cent de­liv­ery of the coun­try’s pledge to fight cli­mate change.

“The lead­er­ship of­ten starts at the local level. Many of Cal­i­for­nia’s am­bi­tious state goals started in cities first,” said Kate Meis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Local Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion NGO. She spoke at the China Pav­il­ion, a fo­rum hosted by Cal­i­for­nia and China on the side­lines of the sum­mit.

The city of Los An­ge­les de­cided to move to­ward 100 per­cent renewable power, and smaller cities like Lan­caster and Santa Mon­ica set the same goal be­fore Cal­i­for­nia as a whole did, Meis said.

She said local gov­ern­ments should serve as pi­lot sites and be in­no­va­tive. “We of­ten see that cities will be re­ally in­no­va­tive and at the fore­front. That gives po­lit­i­cal back­ing to the state, and the state can pass leg­is­la­tion and (is­sue) ex­ec­u­tive or­ders,” she said.

China has made low-car­bon de­vel­op­ment a high pri­or­ity by es­tab­lish­ing a “green econ­omy in­di­ca­tor” sys­tem to eval­u­ate local gov­ern­ment lead­ers’ per­for­mance, said Wang Zhi­gao, pro­gram di­rec­tor of low­car­bon cities at En­ergy Foun­da­tion China. It’s a good way to stim­u­late mo­ti­va­tion on a local level, he said.

Wang said most Chi­nese cities face a chal­lenge in chang­ing from en­ergy-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries to new-en­ergy in­dus­tries.

“There are 609 cities in China, and they vary in size and de­vel­op­ment level,” Wang said. Fewer than 10 per­cent of Chi­nese cities are de­vel­oped, and the pres­sure of re­duc­ing emis­sions comes from chang­ing con­sump­tion be­hav­ior, he said.

In over 200 Chi­nese cities, pop­u­la­tions are de­clin­ing, but the local lead­ers still want ex­pan­sion. In those cities, China should curb their de­sire to ex­pand and help re­train the la­bor forces of in­dus­tries heav­ily re­liant on en­ergy for newen­ergy in­dus­tries, Wang said.

In Cal­i­for­nia, trans­porta­tion pol­lu­tion is a big chal­lenge, Meis said. “Cal­i­for­nia is ahead of the 2020 goals. But we have ac­tu­ally seen trans­porta­tion emis­sions in­crease in the last quar­ter cen­tury.”

She said the city of Sacra­mento is a great ex­am­ple of de­vel­op­ing a solution: 2,000 res­i­dents have ac­cess to a free car-share pro­gram. “So that’s a great ex­am­ple of tack­ling so­cial eq­uity chal­lenges while also be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly,” she said.

Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hosted the first US-China Cli­mate Lead­ers Sum­mit in Los An­ge­les in 2015, where ma­jor cities came to­gether on cli­mate is­sues.

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