Governor Brown signs a climate agreement with Minster of Science and Technology Wan Gang on June 8, 2017 [Image: Danella Debel]

California and China Strike Climate Agreement


California Governor Jerry Brown and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology signed a climate agreement in collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions early in June. Governor Brown’s weeklong trip to China focused on promoting clean energy and meeting with Chinese forerunners in fighting climate change. Prior to reaching a deal with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Governor Brown signed regional climate pacts in Sichuan and Jiangsu Provinces. The bilateral collaboration between California and China marks continued US state-level involvement and the Chinese proactive role as a leader in environmental sustainability.

California, the largest US state economy and the sixth-largest economy in the world, is at the forefront of the clean energy sector in the United States. Boasting many laws dedicated to clean energy, California creates jobs in clean and renewable energy at double the average rate for the industry. Governor Brown plans to implement new environmental initiatives with ambitious goals for the coming decade, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels and limiting petroleum use in vehicles by 50%.

China, one of the two largest economies in the world, has been a leading emitter of greenhouse gas. However, China pledged to cap its emissions by 2030 under the Paris Accord, and plans to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) in renewable power generation projects that would create 13 million jobs in the sector by 2020. This year, the country announced its launch of a national emission cap-and-trade program that borrows largely from the California model.

All the agreements signed on Governor Brown’s visit are similar to the Paris Accord. They are nonbinding, call for investment in low-carbon energy sources, research, and commercialization of sustainable technologies, and have no new emission reduction goals. However, the recent agreements further aim to expand green technology trade between California and China, addressing both climate change and mutual growth in the two economies.

Youngjin Kim is a Research Intern at the East-West Center and a student of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.