Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Officials from the United States and China — the world’s top two sources of greenhouse gas — gathered for the state of a two- day summit in Los Angeles Tuesday to discuss local strategies for fighting climate change in their respective countries.

Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other U.S. city and state officials joined their Chinese counterparts during the White House- organized “U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit” to talk about reducing carbon emissions in urban planning, transportation, power plants, buildings and other areas.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver closing remarks at the conference Wednesday afternoon, following a visit to a solar energy trade show in Anaheim.

During a series of opening speeches Tuesday, climate officials and dignitaries spoke of the opportunity for local officials of the two powerful countries — whose cities represent 40 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world — to spur action by national leaders on climate change.

“The most important players in determining whether the world makes it are the United States and China,” Brown said. “It’s not easy in China, who has its own challenges — economic growth and pollution. And America has its own political pollution” that prevents action on climate change.

Absent action at the top, “the mayors of the world have to be able to create the pressure, the upward pressure on the nation states to get things done,” he said.

Brown added that most people think of climate change as a remote issue — compared with traffic congestion, taxes, immigration and other matters — and may consider it too “unpleasant”  to think about.

“Well, climate disruption is unpleasant, and it’s something that we still are only tentatively, not at all adequately responding to,” he said.

Garcetti drew a connection between U.S. mayors and those in China.

“On both sides of the Pacific, mayors speak the same language — we speak the language of action,” he said.

“And together when two nations, great nations, step up not to point fingers, not to ask questions, but to commit to life-saving changes, we can deliver this not just for our nations but to inspire the world,” he said.

Li Shixiang, Beijing’s executive vice mayor, said Chinese cities have long had a “great relationship” with American cities “in terms of culture, tourism and commerce,” but it’s now time to “spearhead all new work in terms of our actions in our climate effort.”

Li said “in response to climate work, we (China) are still facing many issues and challenges.”

“In this aspect, the United States have low-carbon technology and experience … that are worthy for us to study,” he said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the United States should accept blame for modern emission levels.

“For much of human history, economic development and our way of life moved forward without concern for the degradation taking place around us and in our environment,” he said.

“I have to say to our Chinese friends that, in so many ways, the United States is disproportionately obligated to move forward, having seen so much economic development and use of fossil fuels,” which he noted occurred at a time when Americans were unaware of the effects of their actions.

As part of an effort to build on a recent agreement between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping that sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emission, mayors of several U.S. and Chinese cities signed agreements Tuesday promising to take steps to help their countries reach those national goals.

Xi and Obama in November announced an agreement under which the United States would work to cut emissions to 26 to 28 percent under 2005 levels by 2025, while China would cap emissions levels by 2030.

In a few cases, the agreements signed by officials of the individual Chinese and U.S. cities Tuesday take those goals further.

Under the deal — one of several signed during the Los Angeles summit — about 10 cities and provinces in China set goals for reaching their peak level of greenhouse gas emissions, many setting their goals earlier than 2030.

Among those agreeing to peak sooner are Beijing and Guangzhou, with the mayors of the two cities agreeing to begin decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, or 10 years earlier.

The agreements also include promises by the Chinese and U.S. cities to regularly report greenhouse gas emissions, develop climate action plans and work bilaterally on “sharing best practices and lessons learned, as well as innovating, demonstrating and deploying low carbon technologies.”

Chinese and American officials at the conference said the summit sets the stage for upcoming talks and negotiations among national leaders, culminating in the United Nations’ December climate conference in Paris.

Xi, who will travel to Washington, D.C., next week, is expected to discuss climate change and other pressing state issues with Obama during the visit.

Climate change will likely also be a topic when Obama meets with Pope Francis, who will be touring the United States, starting with a stop in Washington, D.C., next week.

Countries from around the world will gather in Paris in December to negotiate a climate agreement, with some aiming to set deeper and more binding greenhouse gas reduction targets.

—City News Service

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