California and China, a model for collaboration on climate change

International leaders should build on the success of the partnership between Chinese provinces and the state of California in combating climate change, according to a new report co-authored by CCLP senior fellow Orville Schell, the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, and the Asia Society.

“The latest agreement in November 2014 between the United States and China to reduce carbon emissions will help set a new course in the effort for greater international cooperation on climate change, but states, provinces, and municipalities also have a vital role to play,” reads the report, titled A Vital Partnership: California and China Collaborating on Clean Energy and Combating Climate Change.

The report was released by Schell and Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, on March 4 at an Asia Society event in San Francisco. Gov. Jerry Brown and Nobel laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also participated in the discussion.

“In the end if the U.S. and China do come together in a meaningful way to deal with climate change, it is not going to exclusively be between Washington and Beijing,” said Schell. “In fact that may be the least important link. Where the rubber will really meet the road is with states and municipalities dealing directly, so that the solution ends up being more of a patchwork, kind of a mosaic, rather than some big grand design where the presidents wave a wand in Washington and Beijing and bring about a solution. I don’t think it’ll happen that way. But it can happen piece by piece by piece.”

The authors of the report hope that the “unique interaction between California and China will help inspire new forms of constructive subnational efforts to address our critical transnational problems.” The report summarizes the ongoing efforts between California and China that are part of a significant effort to jointly address the challenge of global climate change at the subnational level.

“Both California and China are reaping benefits from their collaborations,” said Cowan. “Not only are these partnerships uncovering solutions to protect the air, water, and ecosystems within each country, but they are also catalyzing increased trade and investment in clean technology in both countries.”