California offers help to fight climate change

Updated: 2013-04-17 11:07

By Wei Yu in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Climate policy and energy investment were two major topics of discussion during Californian Governor Brown's trip to China, where environmental concerns are at the forefront.

Michael Schmitz, one of Brown's delegation members and the head of an association of US cities and counties committed to climate action, clean energy, and sustainability, said he is looking forward to sharing some of the US's successful climate initiatives with Chinese officials.

"In China's new five-year plan, the Chinese government set very specific targets for local governments to reduce their carbon intensity," said Schmitz, executive director of Local Governments for Sustainability USA ( ICLEI). However, the plan will be difficult to achieve, Schmitz said.

"Right now, these municipalities do not have standardized protocols for how to measure their greenhouse gas emissions from different sources, how to forecast future emissions and set reduction targets and how to develop and implement climate action plans," he said.

Schmitz said his association could help address those problems by offering climate solutions, including detailed protocols, software tools, guidance documents and training to Chinese local governments.

Finding business deals especially with clean-technology is another priority for Schmitz, who said he has been impressed with the eagerness of the Chinese to adopt more US clean technologies. "There is a great opportunity in China for businesses that bring new ideas and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and scale clean energy," he said.

China's local government is very interested in the technical resources that US cities use to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well as address air pollution, according to Schmitz. California wants to export its clean technology as widely as possible because of the state's heavy dependence on its development, he said.

Although his association's connections are stronger with local governments than with US businesses, Schmitz said it could play an indirect role by contacting city leaders who know business executives to seek their help in working with Chinese cities.

Schmitz said he is contacting municipal leaders in a number of key Chinese cities who are extremely interested in connecting to US cities and cities around the world on climate change.

Alex Wang, an environmental law professor at University of California-Berkeley, said California is a leader among US states in environmental regulation and the development of clean tech industries.

California adopted energy standards 30 years ago for buildings and appliances, and those standards have saved more than $50 billion since then, Wang said.

California is the only US state with a law that mandates by 2020 one-third of its electricity will come from renewable sources, he noted.

"The opportunity for partnership with China is immense, but it needs to be done in an intelligent way that adapts to China's particular circumstances," Wang said.

"With respect to pollution control, the US has decades of successful experience to share."

In the area of clean-tech, Wang said both countries are still on the learning curve, and "there is a great deal of mutual learning to be had."