US, China local leaders set climate targets

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Municipal and regional government leaders from the United States and China pledged Tuesday to fight climate change at the state and local level, in a joint declaration signed on the first day of a two-day summit in Los Angeles.

The US-China Climate Leaders’ Declaration committed mayors and governors from US and Chinese cities, states and provinces to work together to set their own climate agendas, reporting local greenhouse gas emissions and setting ambitious targets to cut them.

The declaration is the first of its kind committing multiple community leaders from the US and China to take parallel steps to address climate change at the state and local level, organizers said.

The US-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit is the first in a planned series of meetings following a November 2014 agreement between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to work together to cut carbon emissions.

Under the agreement, the US committed to reduce its emissions 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels in 2025, while China promised its carbon emissions would peak around 2030.

Cities in the US and China represent 40 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the summit’s host, told delegates, and as such are a key part of meeting those goals.

“We together are the largest gathering of folks who can take action to affect climate change anywhere in the whole world,” he said.

“Cities are ground zero in the fight against climate change,” he added.

The meeting Tuesday and Wednesday includes government leaders from the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shenzhen, Zhenjiang, Guiyang and Wuhan and provinces including Sichuan and Jilin.

US participants include city leaders from Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Phoenix, Des Moines, Houston and Miami and governors of California and Connecticut.

New York, Washington DC, Portland, Oregon, Boston and San Francisco did not send mayors to the conference but made their own pledges, organizers said.

The promises made by US localities varied widely, from California’s reiteration of its goal to reduce statewide carbon emissions to 1990 levels, to Seattle’s target to be carbon neutral by 2050.

New York, the largest US city, pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent against a 2005 baseline by 2050, in part by procuring 100 per cent of the city’s electricity from renewable sources, according to a White House press release.

Eleven Chinese cities and three provinces established the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities (APPC), committed to taking local and regional steps toward a national target of a peak in emissions around 2030.

The Chinese cities of Beijing, Zhenjiang and Guangzhou committed to a peak in emissions a decade earlier, in 2020.

All told, the APPC cities and provinces emit about 1.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide annually – about a quarter of China’s urban total and close to the total emissions of Japan or Brazil, Garcetti’s office said in a press release.

The conference continues Wednesday, when representatives from the US and Chinese private sector including US investment bank Goldman Sachs and Chinese energy investor Sichuan Sentai Energy Industry Investment Group will also address delegates.

US Vice President Joe Biden will close the conference, addressing the plenary session with an as-yet unnamed “Chinese VIP” Wednesday afternoon, according to a conference agenda aupplied by Garcetti’s office.

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