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Calif. needs cleaner China, says Brown

4:35 AM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
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GUANGZHOU, China - The lure of increased trade may make China irresistible to Gov. Jerry Brown, but it's the country's impact on the global environment that have been at the heart of so many of his travels this past week.

"I think we're in one world, we have one big problem, and we all have to work on it," said Brown in remarks last Thursday at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

Experts say that's why California's involvement in Chinese efforts is so important.

"Really, when you think about it, the air pollution in China, where does it go? In California," said Mona Yew, China climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We feel the impact."

Air pollution can be found all across China's biggest cities. During the trade mission, both Shanghai and Guangzhou offered the California groups stark examples of bad air.

And in a report last week in the South China Post, a Chinese researcher said some citizens of Guangzhou in their early 40s were developing black lung disease.

Masks can be seen on Chinese men and women in every big city, a way of life when air quality is so bad.

California's EPA secretary, Matt Rodriqez, says Chinese officials are particularly interested in leaning how the Golden State has cleaned up its air. He says the country's leaders have asked about California's local air quality districts, and strategies that aren't so focused on the entire nation.

It's not just what's blowing in the wind. China is a country whose main source of electricity rolls down the tracks every day in open rail cars: coal. And it's coal fired power plants that many scientists say are a major source of greenhouse gases... and a climate change disaster.

On Monday in Guangzhou, Brown and EPA secretary Rodriqez signed memoranda of understanding that allows outside environmental groups to monitor China's progress, and help point the country in the right direction.

"The whole opportunity here is cooperation," said Thomas Peterson, president of the Washington, D.C. Center for Climate Strategies.

"It's being able to exchange information, exchange investment, exchange opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist."

Peterson says the California deal allows organizations like his to remain involved and to make sure the Chinese continue to make progress.

The governor, meantime, wants China to make progress as well on marketplace solutions on which California is depending.

At several stops on the trade mission, he pointed out California's goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2025.

"The only way we're going to get there is if people in China figure out how to make better batteries," said Brown at Tsinghua University, to applause from his Chinese hosts.

California business leaders on the trade mission saw their own entrepreneurial opportunities, too.

"Our expectation is that we will have at least one significant Chinese partner as a result of this trip," said Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy, a Davis based company this turns trash into renewable energy. "And that could result in several hundred million dollars worth of new construction projects."

The reality is that China's success or failure on climate and pollution issues over the next several years impacts all global players. California's state law mandating fewer greenhouse gases could amount to much ado about nothing if China fails.

California's efforts to slow down, or stop climate change. If China doesn't change, California's efforts will likely be for nothing.

News10/KXTV

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