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article imageAt Climate Summit, China and California work to get around Trump

By Karen Graham     Sep 13, 2018 in World
While Hurricane Florence approached the North Carolina coast on Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown convened the global summit on fighting climate change in San Francisco.
And one block away from the Moscone Center where the Global Climate Action Summit is being held, the fifth floor of the Four Seasons hotel has been transformed into a Chinese diplomatic outpost.
What is the significance of over fifty Chinese officials, academics and business leaders being in San Francisco? They are listed on the three-day program of events. With their staff, the Chinese are the most significant non-US presence at the summit.
Governor Brown meets with International Climate Leaders on Eve of Global Climate Action Summit.
Governor Brown meets with International Climate Leaders on Eve of Global Climate Action Summit.
Governor Jerry Brown Press Office
In his remarks to a standing-room-only crowd, Brown thanked the “very large Chinese delegation”, which included Xie Zhenhua, China’s long-standing climate majordomo and the top official in the delegation, for being in attendance.
“Just the fact that you are here, in such numbers, and people of such importance and expertise says volumes about the commitment of China to confronting climate change,” he said.
California and China versus Donald Trump
In 2013, California and China signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to work together to advance low carbon development. “I see the partnership between China and … California as a catalyst, and as a lever to change policies in the United States and, ultimately, to change policies throughout the world,” Brown said just before signing the agreement.
US President Donald Trump has set about dismantling Barack Obama's accomplishments on all front...
US President Donald Trump has set about dismantling Barack Obama's accomplishments on all fronts -- climate, trade, health care, immigration and foreign policy
Brendan Smialowski, AFP/File
And in 2015, Chinese and US presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama signed a bilateral deal that set their targets for emissions curbs - a move that laid the foundation for the Paris Agreement.
On Wednesday, Laurence Tubiana, the former French diplomat, and now head of the European Climate Foundation, was in the room when Brown and Xie signed multiple cooperation deals on research, industry and climate politics.
“I think [the Chinese] are really lost,” Tubiana said. “I think they struggle to recognize that the US has disappeared on [climate change]. They just can’t accept that totally, so they are looking for somebody to talk to. I think that’s why they invested so much in Jerry Brown.”
Uphill battle against Trump rollbacks
Governor Brown, now 80 years old, has been innovating on climate, energy, and the environment for a very long time. He is coming to the end of his fourth term as governor of California, and he and the state have made remarkable progress on most of the climate initiatives put into place by both Republican and Democratic governors.
“We have a real program here that’s viable, difficult, but it’s very practical [and] very realizable,” Brown told The Atlantic in an interview this week. “This is not about trying to get on a horse and flaunt whatever achievements we’ve got [in California]. We’ve got too far to go to be complacent or look backward.”
President Donald Trump's decision to scrap President Obama's climate policies and promote the use of fossil fuels has brought havoc to the country as well as a backlash from states and cities who are defiant in wanting to keep the government's promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
California, along with many US mayors, governors and business leaders -- under the banner "We Are Still In" -- have pushed back by adopting more ambitious targets at the local level. These individual states and cities represent about half of the US economy, the equivalent of the third-largest country in the world, according to a report released by the Climate Summit
Financed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the "Fulfilling America's Pledge" report kicked off the three-day Global Climate Action Summit on Wednesday, a gathering of almost 5,000 governors, mayors, business leaders and climate activists from around the world.
The United States will fall short by a third on its commitment under the Paris climate treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. "Current federal and real economy commitments, combined with market forces, will drive US emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 -- roughly two-thirds of the way to the original US target," the report found.
Under the 196-nation Paris Agreement, the United States made a voluntary pledge to cut carbon pollution 26-28 percent by 2025. And as studies have shown recently, the transportation sector is the biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions.
But rather than list all the climate mandates and rules that Trump has trashed or tried to rollback because he has no interest in the climate, this year's climate summit is looking toward the future and what can be accomplished.
As the Atlantic points out, Brown has no illusions of how hard that will be, especially under a president who refuses to act—even as the signs of growing danger are literally blowing in the (hurricane) wind around him. “Sooner rather than later we need an ally in the White House,” Brown says, “not an enemy.”
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