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Major Cities Pledge Climate Action At U.S.-China Summit

State and city leaders from the U.S. and China made specific, verifiable pledges for climate action during the Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles. Photo source

Last week’s Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles, California, showcased clear commitments by U.S. and Chinese states, provinces, and major cities to address climate change—in many cases beyond national targets. And with the signing of a series of MOUs, it also cemented efforts by the two countries to deepen and strengthen cooperation by governments, the private sector, and NGOs. This all bodes well for a major agreement at the December climate talks in Paris.

U.S. President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping set this event in motion last November in their U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change. The summit celebrated actions and cooperation on climate change at subnational levels.

At the summit, municipal and state governments signed a declaration making specific, verifiable pledges for climate action. Among the cities taking action: Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Salt Lake City, and Des Moines in the U.S., and Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Zhenjiang, and Shenzhen in China. Beijing and Guangzhou, two of the country’s largest cities, vowed to peak carbon emissions in 2020—10 years ahead of the national target. This is very good news, and we expect more this week during President Xi’s visit to the White House.

Energy Foundation China program staff moderated breakout sessions on low-carbon city planning and low-carbon energy, and at an Energy Foundation-sponsored lunch highlighted our work on sustainable city design, green buildings, renewable energy, and air quality. We also signed an MOU with the city of Wuhan to support demonstration projects in smart-grid development, distributed renewable energy, and low-emission transportation, among others. The agreement will allow Energy Foundation China and its grantees to leverage their expertise in low-carbon technologies and best practices to help one of China’s largest and most dynamic cities reduce its emissions.

At the close of the summit, Vice President Biden and State Councilor Yang underscored the significance that both countries attached to this event. Strong, positive subnational actions help build momentum in the lead-up to Paris. Corporations in both countries are looking for market opportunities to promote a green economy agenda. Chinese automaker BYD has a lucrative deal with the city of L.A. to provide electric buses, and Goldman Sachs anticipates new financing opportunities in China.

Mayors and governors working on action plans feel strongly that they can push the climate-change agenda forward.

Learn more about the Climate Leaders Summit on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s website.

Energy Foundation launched EF China in 1999. As of 2019, the two operate as individual and separate charitable organizations.