Californian leader visits China in boost for climate change fight

Governor Jerry Brown in Beijing as China capitalises on Trump quitting Paris accord

California governor Jerry Brown signed a deal with China to co-operate on clean technology. Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter

Efforts by China to forge a new global alliance on climate change and sidestep US president Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement were boosted after California governor Jerry Brown affirmed his state's climate change alliance with Beijing.

China, the world’s largest polluter, is diligently working to burnish its credentials as a champion of action to tackle climate change and has used Mr Trump’s decision last week to abandon the Paris pact to assume a leadership role.

Mr Brown, governor of the state with the largest economy in the US, has been in China for a high-profile visit during which he pledged to co-operate in shaping global climate change policies and signed a deal with China to co-operate on clean technology.

“Nobody can stay on the sidelines. We can’t afford any dropouts in the tremendous human challenge to make the transition to a sustainable future,” Mr Brown told the Associated Press. “Disaster still looms and we’ve got to make the turn.”


Mr Brown said China, Europe and US state governors would now fill the gap left by Washington's move to abdicate leadership on the issue.

Climate controls

California has some of the strictest climate controls in the US and has been one of the leaders in clean energy development.

The California governor's visit coincided with the abrupt resignation of the acting US ambassador to China, David Rank, who told his colleagues at the embassy he was leaving the foreign service over disagreements with Mr Trump's decision.

Embassy sources said Mr Rank had called a “town hall meeting” at the embassy, at which he said he was unable to deliver a “demarche”, or policy initiative, to the Chinese government over the US’s withdrawal from the pact. He said his conscience did not allow him to do it as a “parent, patriot and a Christian”.

Mr Park has been deputy head of mission since January 2016, having previously served in Taipei, Shanghai, Athens and Mauritius.

At the EU-China summit in Brussels last week, where finding agreement on trade issues proved elusive, the Europeans and Chinese found common ground on the environment.

Ministerial gathering

Leaders said they would co-host, along with Canada, a major ministerial gathering in September to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the clean energy transition.

“As far as the European side is concerned, we were happy to see that China is agreeing to our unhappiness about the American climate decision,” said EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"This is helpful, this is responsible, and this is about inviting both, China and the European Union, to proceed with the implementation of the Paris Agreement."

Separately, there was coverage in Chinese media of a visit to Beijing by US journalist Thomas Friedman, who pointed out to Chinese audiences that California effectively had its own environmental rules, along with 30 other states and two Canadian provinces.

“So if Trump can go to Detroit, and say to Detroit, ‘Make every gas guzzler you want. Boys, party like it’s the 1960s.’ But you can’t sell one in California,” Friedman said.

Later this week, US energy secretary Rick Perry will attend the energy meeting in Beijing and his contributions will be closely watched to see what direction the Trump administration will take in formulating policies that will inform global energy trends.

(Additional reporting agencies)

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing