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UC Berkeley, former Gov. Jerry Brown partner with China to spur climate action

September 23, 2019
A group of leaders at the launch of the California-China Climate Institute

Government officials and leaders from UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University gathered at a launch event for the California-China Climate Institute on Monday in New York. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

Berkeley — As the dangers of climate change grow and global political tensions rise, the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with former California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and China’s top climate change official Xie Zhenhua, with support from other University of California campuses, today launched a groundbreaking new initiative — the California-China Climate Institute — to spur further climate action through joint research, training and dialogue.

“The climate threat doesn’t respect borders and it doesn’t pause for politics. Now is the time for action from leaders everywhere — for humanity and our common future,” said Jerry Brown, chair of the California-China Climate Institute, who was appointed a visiting professor at UC Berkeley in July. “With this Institute, California and China are pushing forward together.”

Jerry Brown addressing an audience on a video screen

Former California Governor Jerry Brown—who will chair the Institute—made comments via video. Photo by Beowolf Sheehan.

Brown announced the new transpacific initiative with China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua, who leads the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University — one of China’s preeminent research institutions — which will partner with the California-China Climate Institute. 

"Climate change is a common threat faced by the human society. I deeply appreciate Governor Brown's great contribution and leadership to addressing climate change during his tenure as governor. I hope the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University can continue deep collaboration with Governor Brown's team," said Xie Zhenhua.

Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom also made remarks. Photo by Beowolf Sheehan.

The California-China Climate Institute is housed at UC Berkeley’s School of Law and College of Natural Resources and will deploy the university's resources and expertise to advance research on low-carbon transportation and zero emission vehicles; carbon pricing; climate adaptation and resilience; sustainable land use and climate-smart agriculture; carbon capture and storage; and long-term climate goal-setting and policy enforcement.

"Berkeley is uniquely positioned to help these two world leaders address the pressing issue of climate change," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. "Our faculty and researchers each day take on the peril of our changing climate and seek to develop new technologies and policies that will reduce greenhouse gasses across continents. This institute will play a key role in spreading that work around the world."

Through this work, the California-China Climate Institute will identify and share best practices and key lessons; scale innovative climate solutions; and help inform top policy and decision makers in California and China — and beyond. 

"UC Berkeley has played a key role in the development of climate solutions and partnering with the state to support California's emissions reductions goals," said David Ackerly, Dean of the College of Natural Resources. "We’re excited to build on this experience and work with our colleagues in China to address the complex global challenges ahead."

Xie Zhenhua

Xie Zhenhua, a former vice chair of China's main economic planning agency, is head of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

“I am excited about this collaboration to tackle the world’s most urgent problem, climate change. This working relationship between California and China taps the tremendous strength of UC Berkeley in the area of environmental protection in the Law School’s Center for Law, Energy, & Environment and in the College of Natural Resources," said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. "My hope is that this unique endeavor will make a real difference.”

The California-China Climate Institute's expansive research will be complemented by a high-level training program that will create new opportunities for dozens of Chinese and Californian researchers and scientists, technical experts and policymakers to learn from their counterparts — and advance critical policies and programs to curb carbon emissions. 

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore was also in attendance. Photo by Beowolf Sheehan.

This will be achieved through close collaboration between the California-China Climate Institute, the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, China's national and provincial governments and California's top government agencies including, the California Public Utilities Commission, California Natural Resources Agency, California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, California Independent System Operator, Air Quality Management Districts and others.

"Leading universities should play a leading role in tackling the global challenge of climate change. Tsinghua University has top talent in climate change and established the ‘Global Alliance of Universities on Climate’ together with 12 world-leading universities, including the University of California, Berkeley," said Tsinghua University president Yong Qiu. "We believe that by working together, we can make our due contribution to global climate governance.”

Left to right: Zheng Li, Executive Vice President, Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University; He Jiankun, Chairman, China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change; Fan Dai, Executive Director, California-China Climate Inst

Left to right: Zheng Li, Executive Vice President, Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University; He Jiankun, Chairman, China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change; Fan Dai, Executive Director, California-China Climate Institute; David Ackerly, Dean, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

Finally, the California-China Climate Institute will organize a series of subnational climate dialogues between top government, business and climate leaders from throughout the United States and China to foster understanding and collaboration with respect to climate policy, investment and finance. These efforts build on the first high-level United States-China subnational climate dialogue held during the Global Climate Action Summit last September in San Francisco hosted by the state of California and Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

The California-China Climate Institute will also receive support and guidance from other University of California campuses and institutions, including UCLA, UC Davis, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and others. 

Brown committed to establishing this institute after meeting with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing and hosting a dialogue with Xie Zhenhua and more than two dozen Californian and Chinese policymakers, researchers and business leaders at Tsinghua University in 2017. This followed Brown's call for greater climate action and collaboration at Tsinghua University during an earlier trip to China as governor in 2013. 

For additional information on the California-China Climate Institute, visit: https://ccci.berkeley.edu.