A New California-China Cooperation on Climate Change

China and the United States are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, accounting for some 45 percent of global emissions. The world is unlikely to find a solution to climate change without aggressive action from both. With the Trump administration retreating from climate action, U.S. states and cities are pushing to fill the void with their own climate policies – and greater international engagement.

At the University of California, a dedicated group of faculty have been working to boost the state’s climate cooperation with China. UCLA Law will be one of several UC institutions collaborating on the California-China Climate Institute (CCCI). As Dan mentioned in his blog, CCCI will be chaired by Governor Jerry Brown and will work closely with Tsinghua University’s Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, and experts from various levels of Chinese and California government. China’s top climate change official, Minister Xie Zhenhua, will chair the China-side institute at Tsinghua. I am a co-chair of CCCI’s academic advisory board, along with Prof. Dan Farber and several others.

China and California are the second and fifth largest economies in the world and their actions on climate change send an important signal to the world about what is possible with concerted effort. California has been a global leader in climate change action. China has made climate change a top-level priority and these days is a hotbed of climate change policy development. In California, there is also a growing recognition that China has become a source of climate change policy innovation and not just a recipient of global ‘best practice.’ China’s rapid expansion in electric vehicles and public transport, and breakneck growth of renewable energy are two examples among many. I have been involved in US-China environmental collaboration for the last 20 years and have witnessed first-hand the dramatic expansion in Chinese capabilities and knowledge on environmental regulation.

Initially, CCCI will commence work on several projects on long-term climate goal setting and policy enforcement, carbon markets and pricing, low carbon transportation and technology, adaptation and resilience, and sustainable land use. The goal will be to develop greater knowledge on effective climate change action and explore ways to introduce new ideas into the policy making process.

At UCLA Law (and the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment), we are actively engaged in environmental collaborations with Chinese partners via CCCI and beyond. This past week we hosted a high-level delegation from China’s Ministry of Ecology & Environment to assist Chinese experts in their development of a more robust pollution permitting system (more on this to come). Our UCLA Emmett Institute team (including new Emmett/Frankel Fellow, Siyi Shen) has just commenced a year-long inquiry into the best ways to improve the efficiency and co-control of air pollution and greenhouse gases. This past year, we have taken part in environmental trainings for Chinese judges and research into Chinese environmental public interest litigation.

In these times of heightened US-China tension, environmental cooperation remains a bright spot in the relationship between our two countries. As Washington continues its retreat on climate change action, experts in California and China will not stand idly by. This new institute and the work of partners at the University of California, China’s top universities and others will continue to push forward the development of solutions to our most pressing climate change challenges.

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About Alex

Alex Wang

Alex Wang is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and a leading expert on environmental law and the law and politics of China. His research focuses on the social effec…

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