SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Looking for allies in the fight against climate change, California Gov. Jerry Brown heads to China this week in a push to build foreign support for carbon-cutting efforts that have found resistance in Washington.
California will work with governments around the world to combat climate change even if President Donald Trump rolls back environmental regulations, Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"It's important for the world to know that America is not Washington. ... Yes, we're part of the union, but we're also a sovereign state that can promote the necessary policies that are required for survival," Brown said.
Brown is making his second trip as governor to China, where he will promote the liberal state's ambitious climate policies at a conference of global energy ministers and look to marshal states, provinces, cities and other non-national governments to take their own actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
California's aggressive target for reducing emissions is among the most ambitious in the world. By 2030, state is aiming to reduce emissions 40 percent below where they were in 1990.
"I don't want California to be isolated in its regulatory regime on zero-emission cars or renewable electricity," Brown said. "I want to be part of a worldwide effort."
Brown, California's longest serving governor and a three-time candidate for president, has made combating climate change a central piece of his legacy as he nears the end of his nearly five-decade political career after the 2018 election.
He leaves Friday for a five-night trip that will take him to three cities and a conference in Beijing of energy ministers from two-dozen countries, including U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Brown will speak at a separate conference of non-national governments that are working on reducing carbon emissions. California is a leader of the Under2 Coalition, which aims to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius.
He'll also visit two provinces, Sichuan and Jiangsu, which have signed onto the Under2 agreement and will ride a high-speed train. Brown is an enthusiastic supporter of a $64 billion bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which has come under fire for rising costs.
It's unclear whether Brown will raise issues besides climate change. He's been a vocal advocate of nuclear nonproliferation. Intellectual property rights and business access to Chinese markets have been top issues in Hollywood and Silicon Valley's technology sector, two engines of California's economy.
China is the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases and has struggled to control smog in Beijing and major urban areas in its densely populated eastern provinces. Public outrage over smog and a desire to meet climate goals led Chinese officials to close down coal power plants around Beijing in recent years and suspend plans to construct new plants nationwide.
California can help China as it looks to build a national carbon market this year, a priority for President Xi Jinping, said Susan Shirk, chairwoman of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego.
"I think we could help on the technical verification side," said Shirk, who oversaw U.S. policy toward China at the State Department during the Clinton administration. "We have the best climate scientists who do measures of emissions, we have the regulatory understanding of how to do this, and we have the design — we've already linked with other carbon markets."
Meanwhile, Brown is struggling at home to convince state lawmakers to extend California's own cap-and-trade program, which placed a price on carbon emissions and created a market to trade permits to pollute. It's has been closely watched worldwide but expires in 2020.
Brown is asking lawmakers for a two-thirds vote to insulate it from legal challenges — a tall order. Some Democratic lawmakers want the program expanded so it targets local pollutants, not just greenhouse gas emissions. Others worry that would significantly raise costs for businesses and ultimately consumers.
Brown is traveling with four of his staffers, the chairs and some staff of the California Energy Commission and the Air Resources Board, which oversees state climate policies. The private, corporate-funded California State Protocol Foundation is funding the expenses of the governor and his staff. The Energy Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit, is paying for the other two agencies.