California and China team up to defy US climate retreat

California and China team up to defy US climate retreat
California has signed a cooperation agreement with China on clean energy technology, emissions trading and air pollution reduction in an effort to bridge the gap left by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US from the Paris climate accord last week.

Under the pact, signed at an environmental tech summit in Beijing on Tuesday, California and China will work to develop and commercialize expertise on carbon capture and storage, clean energy and information technology to rein in pollution.

"The challenges are big but so too is the commitment - the commitment of Jiangsu Province with California and China with the people of America. We're going to get it done. Nothing will stop us," said Governor Brown in a statement. "Green is not only gold, green is our future - China, California and America and the other countries of the world all working for the prosperity of the people."

Under the agreement, signed by Governor Jerry Brown and China’s Minister of Science and Technology, Wan Gang, California and Jiangsu Province will expand collaborate on greenhouse gas emission and air pollution reduction programs.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was at the same conference, declined to take questions from reporters.

The agreement builds on a previous one signed in 2015 that supported trade, educate, tourism and culture exchanges with the sister-state partnership.

Jiangsu Province, in southwest China, has a GDP of more than $1 trillion, is home to approximately 80 million people and is China’s most densely populated province. It is the leading producer of clean energy in the country.

China is one of the top three carbon dioxide emissions producers along with the US and European Union.

Reuters reported, however, that China’s policy is on its own carbon mark “which is big enough and complex enough,” meaning, the agreements are just in the beginning stage to talk about linking up with foreign markets.

“It will be a long time before there is true cooperation with California, whose market is just at regional state and is hard to link up the Chinese market,” Ma Aimin, of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation said at the energy forum. The group is backed by the Chinese government.

California, the largest state in the US with 39 million residents, has been hit hard by the effects of climate change, having being plagued with wild fires and a 10-year drought which led to the governor declaring a state of emergency several times and introducing water restrictions.

With an annual economic output of $2.4 trillion, the state is an economic powerhouse and boasts the sixth-largest economy in the world.

Nearly 125 million Americans live in counties with dangerous levels of air pollution, with Californian cities dominating the list, according to a report from the American Lung Association, citing data from 2013-2015.

"California has dominated the top 10 list every year. In fact, a California city has been number one every year since the report began in 2000," Will Barrett, Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California told RT.

"For ozone pollution, Los Angeles has topped the list the past 17 or 18 reports."

The report did find evidence of cleaner air, however. While 125 million Americans are still living with high rates of pollution, the report found it was a drop of 41 million from the 2016 report, based on earlier data.

The progress in cleaner air has come in part due to cleaner power plants and increased use of cleaner vehicles and engines, leading to fewer days of high ozone levels and lower levels of year-round particle pollution.

California cities top the list of those most polluted by short-term particle pollution, among them Bakersfield, Fresno, San Jose, and San Francisco.

READ MORE: California's cap-and-trade on carbon emissions upheld

California’s efforts to tackle climate change crosses party lines. Under Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, the state developed the most aggressive pollution-control programs in the nation.

California has been the lead state in passing ambitions measures on pollution control and conservation often serving as a model for national and even international environmental law.

Governor Brown has long been an environmental advocate, including when he first served as governor in the 1970s. He has made this a central focus as he enters his final 18 months in office. In an interview, he said the president’s action was “a colossal mistake and defies science.”

“Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else,” Mr. Brown said, according to the New York Times.

On June 1, President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement on climate change, a UN treaty signed by almost 200 nations in 2016 and considered a major achievement by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the US will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said.

He said his administration would begin negotiations to reenter the Paris accord or another climate treaty “on terms that are fair” to the US.

Implementing the pact would have cost the US trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lost industrial jobs, with massive reductions to the production of paper, cement, iron and steel, coal, and natural gas, Trump said, explaining his decision.

The same day, 61 mayors from across the United States, representing 36 million Americans, released a statement saying they would continue to uphold the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

Together, the “Climate Mayors” said they would work toward meeting the 1.5 celsius target set in the Paris Agreement and continue to invest in renewable energy and electric cars, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks,” the Climate Mayors wrote.