What I learned at the US – China low carbon cities Summit in Beijing

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Last year, I was invited to be a member of the U.S. Compact of Mayors delegation to the first US-China Climate Leaders Summit, held in Los Angeles. The invitation from the White House was based on my leadership in the National League of Cities, as the Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee for the last year, and five years of participation on that committee before that.

There were 30 U.S. Mayors and dozens from China, each of whom presented on our local efforts to reduce carbon emissions by advancing energy efficiencies, renewable energy and expanding transit in our own cities. And it was remarkable to learn of the dozens of projects going on in cities throughout China that relied on renewable energy and focused on significantly reducing their carbon emissions.

This year the Chinese reciprocated by hosting the Summit in Beijing. I attended as one of a dozen US mayors, with Bloomberg Philanthropies underwriting the costs of our travel and participation. Also at the summit were US Secretary of State John Kerry, and a number of representatives from the US State Department, and Deputy Sec of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood Randall , along with many NGO groups from the United States whose main mission is to advance clean energy.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy , Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, was a keynote speaker, recognizing that it is the city and local leaders who are leading the way as incubators for developing solutions , that cities are responsible for 70 percent of carbon emissions, so city leaders feel a fierce urgency to address these challenges. She announced that the US government has made a commitment to double the national investment in clean energy by $12.8 billion a year to develop clean technologies and is partnering with private investment, led by Bill Gates, to mobilize private industry.

U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry spoke about the significant partnership he has built with the Chinese Minister in charge of climate change and the collaborative nature of their shared commitments to advance clean energy throughout both countries. And US Ambassador to China, Max Baccus concluded the Summit by sharing that climate change and carbon reduction has been a significant component of the work going on between the two countries.

Other US Mayors from great cities like Phoenix, Berkley, Boston New York and Portland are all making significant investments in transit, clean energy, and have established ambitious goals to be carbon neutral by 2050.

We also heard from many Chinese city leaders, who are piloting new clean energy and renewable and energy efficiency programs likewise setting goals to significantly reduce carbon emissions, as well as flexibility to adapt to climate change. Through the US State Department, many Mega cities in China have signed collaborative agreements with many of the NGOs currently working in US, to provide technical resources and help monitor progress.

I learned that these ambitious efforts to address carbon reduction exist at the highest levels of government on a global basis, and at the same time rely on the most local levels of government to assure real change takes place from the ground up. It is up to each one of us, whether in elective office, in business and community leadership, to make commitments to decarbonize our cities, counties, state and ultimately our country.


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