Energy, environment key issues in Brown’s China trip

Between courting investors and strategic partners and uncovering the enormous challenges and opportunities represented in China’s 1.3 billion population, Governor Jerry Brown continues to advance his sustainable vision and global legacy.


A key focus of the governor’s 10-day trade mission to China was to share California’s invaluable experience of growing its economy while reducing pollution with its pioneering low carbon development policies. That’s the opportunity that prompted us to join this unprecedented mission – and it may also end up as Gov. Brown’s most enduring and critical accomplishment.


“We’re in one world and we’ve got one big problem,” Brown told an audience of U.S. delegates, Chinese officials, students, and scholars at Tsinghua University last Thursday.


The good news for these two world economies, however, is that China’s environmental challenges marry well with California’s proven innovative solutions. As China now works to keep its economy humming while reducing its inefficiencies and dependence on fossil fuels, Californians can offer much needed technologies abroad – and prosper at home. The accounting firm Ernst and Young calls China the world’s best market for renewable energy projects. As a worldwide clean technology leader – a top patent filer and investment recipient – we Californians are ready and willing to export our wares as China prepares for the urbanization of hundreds of millions of its citizens and the sustainability impacts of that migration.


Together, our organizations represent hundreds of thriving businesses across the state that support and deploy clean energy and energy efficiency measures due to their economic and environmental advantages.


Also represented on this trade mission, Sierra Energy, a Davis-based company that converts waste to energy, is working on an $80 million deal to build a plant to power 20,000 Chinese homes. Furthermore, McWong Environmental Technology of Sacramento, a wastewater treatment specialist, reportedly signed a $100-million deal in China this week to build and operate a water treatment facility at a chemical plant in the Anhui province. And Scripps Institution of Oceanography signed an agreement with Ningbo University that includes $50-$100 million of Chinese funding for a University of California, San Diego research center for development of renewable technologies at Ningbo University along with the formation of $25 million technology fund for commercialization in China of Scripps/UCSD discoveries.


Recognizing the need to nurture and accelerate more of these opportunities, the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this year created the US-China Clean Tech Center (UCCTC). With offices in Los Angeles and Beijing’s Central Business District, the UCCTC provides U.S. clean technology firms with a platform to showcase American clean tech products and services in China.


As China’s environmental issues hold much promise for California’s innovation economy, the inverse holds true. California is providing China with timely best practices and low carbon solutions as the nation works to develop its own emissions trading system, like California’s AB 32, its landmark clean energy and climate law. China, now responsible for roughly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, is rolling out pilot cap and trade programs in five major cities and two provinces, with plans to expand nationally by 2016. China is planning its own low carbon fuel standard, similar, to California’s pioneering program, which will reduce smog, and boost the emerging low carbon fuels industry. During his mission, Gov. Brown signed a MOU with the southern province of Guangdong, as it embarks on a carbon-pollution trading market.


It is on Gov. Brown’s watch that the California’s clean energy policies, including AB 32 and the state’s clean fuels standard, are taking effect. Every cause needs a steward, defender, and champion. And as the week revealed, California’s visionary policies continue to serve as models for much of the world to repurpose.


It’s not only China that is joining California in putting a hard cap on carbon pollution. There’s also the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Quebec, and Tokyo, as well as nine northeast and mid-Atlantic U.S. states. The myriad benefits of reducing air and water pollution and the widespread adoption of low carbon fuels speak volumes.


As Gov. Brown returns from China this week, we should all take stock in the leadership that is driving vital policies providing economic and environmental benefits not only to California but also to the rest of the globe.

Ed’s Note: Mary Leslie is president of the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC), an organization dedicated to serving local businesses. Holly Smithson is President and Chief Operating Officer of CleanTECH San Diego, a nonprofit, member organization formed in 2007 to position the San Diego region as a global leader in the cleantech economy.


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