California Governor Jerry Brown spoke at the opening session of the China Pavilion, a three-day gathering on the sidelines of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco / Credit: Chen Zhou
California Governor Jerry Brown welcomed delegates and attendees to a global climate change summit this week in San Francisco with some words of advice: "Don't just celebrate, indulge in California's red wine," he said, don't forget about "our crisis situation" and the risks to the future.
Gov. Brown spoke Sept. 12 at the opening of the China Pavilion, a three-day event tied to the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that brought together more than 120 Chinese business leaders, provinces, cities and civil society groups to discuss efforts to address climate change and advance international cooperation.
The Chinese delegation is the largest national delegation to participate in the summit, Brown said.
Leaders and participants from around the world have gathered at the GCAS under the tagline “Take Ambition to the Next Level." That means promoting faster and deeper implementation of commitments governemnts have made to keep climate change in check and accelerate actions needed to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
In June 2017, US President Donald Trump officially announced that the United States would withdraw from that landmark agreement, making the United States an outlier among counties that have united to support the goals of the Paris pact. Amid resistance from Washington, however, several state leaders, including GCAS co-chairs Gov. Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, published a signed article in the "Los Angeles Times" noting that more than 3,000 US cities, states, businesses and universities -- accounting for more than half the US population and with an econoimc output equivilent to the world's third-largest economy -- are continuing to work toward fulfilling their commitments to the Paris Agreement.
They're united in their efforts through an initiative called "America's Pledge," under which they have been stepping up their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and, as the letter reads, "move towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, just as the rest of the world is doing."
Having California's commitment to such efforts matters, Brown said, because while California is only one state in a country of 50, it has become the world's fifth-largest economy after the United States, China, Japan and Germany.
"California is an important part of the United States," Brown said. "If California is taken out, the United States is not the world's largest economy. So we are not small potatos."
Regarding China-US cooperation on climate change, Brown told Caixin that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been encouraging cooperation with California and other places and is very supportive of the GCAS.
"Even if there are many problems, I believe we can still increase friendship and cooperation with each other," Brown said.
In a speech, Brown said that the challenge of climate change can be dealt with through new technologies and changes in people's lifestyles. That requires a lot of money from countries and close cooperation.
"Everyone likes low carbon, but I prefer zero carbon emissions, even negative carbon emissions," he said. California aims to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2045 in part by looking to what countries like China are doing to achieve similar targets.
"Trying to cope with these challenges also gives us the motivation to inspire our innovation," Brown added.
Car manufacturing is one sector where the potential for cooperation is partiucularly promising.
"American car manufacturers especially like gasoline cars. They like cars as big as possible. The more fuel they consume, the better. But we need zero-carbon cars," Brown said.
"There are already 1.5 million electric cars in China. We hope China can have 100 million," he continued. "We need at least 5 million in California, we need to tell automakers to make and sell more electric cars. California is committed to doing this, and other states will follow. If China and other countries are working hard, we can achieve our goals."
To achieve the goal of zero emissions, US and European car manufacturers can look to meet demand from China for more electric vehicles, Brown told Caixin Media. In addition, China can invent and commercialize clean technologies through partnerships with California companies and scientists.
Trade war troubles?
Would the brewing trade war between China and the United States affect the import and export of new energy vehicles or exchanges between Chinese and American companies?
Brown said the trade war is only a temporary issue.
“We call it a problem, but we still work together to find a way [toward] cooperation," he said. "So Trump is only one part, and then there will be something else after Trump. So we need patience and we need imagination and we need perseverance in working together, China and many different parts of America."
Former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said in a speech at the China Pavilion that according to US law, if Americans choose a new president in the next presidential election in 2020, then the new administration would still have time to announce the return of the United States to the Paris Agreement.
Brown admited that there have been problems between China and the United States in the past and will be in the future.
But while the two countries are currently facing serious obstacles involving tariffs and concerns over intellectual property rights, Brown said he believes that President Xi Jinping hopes for more cooperation.
"He has been encouraging cooperation with places like California and is very supportive of this summit," the governor said. "Despite the difficulties, by jointly addressing the challenges of climate change and sharing the results of scientists and other experts, we will have a common way forward and increase our friendship and cooperation."
Xie Zhenhua, special representative of China's climate change affairs, said in the opening speech at the China Pavilion that the cooperation between China and the United States on climate change will win.
"I talked with Governor Brown for nearly two hours yesterday afternoon," Xie said. "We all believe that under the current situation of China-US relations, we can find the benefits of the two countries at all levels and benefit the development of both countries. Both countries can achieve win-win cooperation areas and cooperation projects, we will continue to work together for the consensus we have reached."
The path forward
When Brown, a Democrat, became the 34th governor of California in 1975, he was still a young bachelor. Now, at the age of 80, he is nearing retirement. During his decades in politics, Brown served as Governor of California (twice), state attorney general, Mayor of Oakland, Secretary of State of California, President of California's Democratic Party and ran as a candidate for president three times. Because of term limits, he cannot participate in the next gubernatorial general election to be held in November. In an interview with "The New York Times," Brown also said that he was ready to retire.
But at the meeting of the GCAS, he sounded less set on retirement, saying that ensuring a victory for the Democratic Party in the next round of elections "is very important."
In fact, Brown, like may of the state and local leaders at the GCAS, had plenty of criticism for President Trump, who recently announced regulations that would encourage more methane emissions.
"This is crazy," Brown said. "Humans need to reduce methane emissions ... Reducing methane emissions can give the world more time to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and Trump's behavior is the most dangerous and irresponsible.
Such attacks are common in US politics, the former vice-president of Tsinghua University, He Jiankun, told Caixin. And while Brown has been actively promoting climate change action, his power is limited, He said.
What's notable, however, is that the cooperation between China and California is mainly between enterprises, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and/or foundations, said He who along with Gov. Brown jointly unveiled the "China-US Climate Change Institute" in Tsinghua University last year.
Cooperation at those levels will not change if Brown retires, He said. California has long been governed by Democratic Party politicians, who tend to support more environmentally friendly policies, and the chances that a Republican governor who shares Trump's view of the environment winning the governorship of California were slim, He said.
He also believed Brown's comment about not wanting to "retire" sent a good signal.
"If you are not a governor any more, you can promote climate change as a former political figure and social activist. Just like Gore, you can do a lot of things. You can give speeches everywhere," said He.
"But as a former politician, it is hard to say how big the future influence can be." ■
This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.
【财新网】（特派旧金山记者 周辰）“我们来到加州，不要只顾着庆祝，沉醉于加州的红酒，忘了我们危机四伏的现状，和充满风险的未来，”2018年9月12日至14日，全球气候行动峰会（GCAS）在美国加利福尼亚州旧金山市举办，峰会东道主加州州长布朗（Edmund G. Brown Jr.）在9月12日上午来到中国角开幕式会场，欢迎了从中国远道而来的120多名与会者，他表示，中国代表团是参与此次峰会最大的国家代表团。
在GCAS期间，来自世界各地的领导人和与会者汇聚一堂，共同致力于 “将目标提升至新的水平” ( Take Ambition to the Next Level)。全球各国、地区、城市、企业、投资者和民众在加州的烈日骄阳下共同庆祝所取得的气候成就，并推动各国更迅速和深入地实践承诺和加速行动，实现《巴黎协定》制定的目标。
布朗表示，虽然加州只是美国的一个州，但已经成为美国、中国、日本、德国之后的全球第五大经济体，“加州是美国重要的一部分，如果把加州拿出来，美国就不是全球最大经济体了，”他说，“所以我们不是个小人物 （small potatoes），我们是大人物。”