China And California Form Unlikely Partnership To Address Climate Change

In a move to strengthen cooperation on lowering carbon dioxide emissions, China’s top climate negotiator and California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday in San Francisco. The agreement includes pledges to work together on sharing low-carbon strategies and create joint-ventures on clean technologies.

Built on more than a year and a half of significant diplomatic and business exchanges between California and China, including the Governor’s Trade and Investment Mission to China, the opening of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai, and a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, it is a first-of-its-kind agreement between the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and a U.S. state.

California’s per-capita energy consumption has been almost flat since the 1970s, and it started trading its state carbon emissions with the launch of a cap-and-trade system in November 2012. China is also experimenting cap-and-trade carbon pricing mechanisms, and recently set up emissions trading schemes in seven large cities.

On Friday, Brown called climate change “the greatest problem mankind has ever faced,” and hoped that California “can be the catalyst that shifts national policy and international policy.”

Brown went on to say in a statement:

“The fact that the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China is entering into an agreement with one of the fifty states reflects the important position of California not only in the economy, but in science, technology and climate change initiatives. I see the partnership between China, between provinces in China, and the state of California as a catalyst and as a lever to change policies in the United States and ultimately change policies throughout the world.”

At the signing, Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator said that climate change has become more of a priority as people have realized that it is taking a severe economic and human toll. Xie said that the Chinese government has attached great importance to climate change issues and is working very hard to integrate economic development and people’s living standards with environmental protection and climate change measures.


In 2011 China and the U.S. accounted for 43 percent of global emissions. China is now the world’s top emitter, while the United States remains the largest cumulative emitter since the industrial revolution.

This latest MOU follows a string of recent collaborative efforts between the so-called “Group of Two” relating to climate change as domestic and international pressure for action mounts.

At last week’s G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping announced that they would seek to eliminate potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the landmark treaty that successfully phased out ozone-depleting substances decades ago.

In June at the Sunnylands Summit in California, the two leaders agreed to work together to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — substitutes for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and GHGs. In July, the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group submitted a report to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED;) proposing five new action initiatives involving transportation; smart grids; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; energy efficiency; and data transparency.