California and China ink deal to tackle greenhouse gases together

2013-09-15 02:13:59 GMT2013-09-15 10:13:59(Beijing Time)
Xie Zhenhua and Jerry Brown met in San Francisco to sign the agreement to boost co-operation on climate change. Photo: APXie Zhenhua and Jerry Brown met in San Francisco to sign the agreement to boost co-operation on climate change. Photo: AP

California Governor Jerry Brown and China's top climate negotiator have signed the first agreement between a US state and China that seeks greater co-operation on clean energy technologies and research meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The memorandum of understanding signed on Friday with the National Development and Reform Commission was another aggressive move by California to combat climate change. The state has already passed the nation's most ambitious greenhouse gas limits, including a so-called "cap and trade" system that put a price on carbon pollution in the state.

It came a day after China unveiled its first comprehensive plan to fight air pollution, promising significant improvements in air quality in key regions by 2017.

"I see the partnership between China and ... California as a catalyst, and as a lever to change policies in the United States and, ultimately, to change policies throughout the world," Brown said just before signing the agreement.

Under the two-year commitment, Chinese and California environment and energy officials will work together to find ways to share new low-carbon technologies, as well as research and policy innovations meant to combat climate change.

China and the US are the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters.

The two sides also agreed to immediately create a task force comprising top officials including the director general of China's Department of Climate Change and California's head of the state Environmental Protection Agency.

"That's the significance of this memorandum of understanding. It involves agencies of state government, agencies of the People's Republic of China ... the University of California, businesses, research scientists in both the public and private sector. This is a very important opportunity," Brown said.

Brown and NDRC vice-chairman Xie Zhenhua said the idea was to help each side share in ways to tighten industrial performance standards to control methane, carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

"California is being a very good role model and taking a leading role [for climate change regulation] in the US," Xie said.

He said climate change had become more of a priority in China as people realised it was taking a severe economic and human toll.

Experts on US and Chinese environmental law and climate policy said the agreement was promising at a time when international climate negotiations had stalled.

"NDRC is the most powerful agency when it comes to Chinese development and energy projects," said Robert Percival, of the environmental law programme at University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law. "The pattern that is emerging is that as consensus becomes virtually impossible in global climate negotiations, the US and China are realising that they can make huge progress simply by working bilaterally."


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