Environmental Issues Central to California-China Partnerships


Last November, China and the United States announced a bilateral agreement on achieving the robust climate change pledges both countries made ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015. A recent report released by the Asia Society describes how the US can achieve its climate change objectives through environmental policies at the state and local levels, particularly by learning from California’s environmental relations with China.

California is the only US state with which China has signed as many as five Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), and also the only state to have MOUs with China at the government level on environmental issues, of which it has four. For example, California has agreed in one of these MOUs to enhance cooperation with the city of Shenzhen concerning carbon emissions trading systems. California is the only state in the United States currently with a carbon market, which is also linked to Canada’s emerging carbon market. China currently has seven pilot carbon markets, with Shenzhen’s as the first one to be piloted, and Chongqing starting its pilot carbon market last summer. China’s goal is to have a national carbon market by 2018 that can link up with other global carbon markets like the one in California

Another MOU addresses increasing cooperation between China and California to reduce air pollution. Much of California’s air pollution comes from automobiles, so the latest MOU signed by the University of California Davis and China Automotive Technology and Research Center in September concerning the transportation sector is a natural area for cooperation. This five year agreement established a China-US Zero Emission Vehicle laboratory.

California is not the only US state to cooperate with China on environmental issues, as Nevada is also working on issues of water quality with a Chinese partner. In addition, institutions at UC-Davis are also working with China on other critical issues, such as food security. Looking to existing partnerships such as these should provide other US states with an abundance of ideas for ways to grow their international collaboration.

Nina Geller is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.