Gov. Brown is back in Calif. after a weeklong trip to several provinces in China negotiating climate change agreements. Brown was presented in the Chinese media as a climate “superstar,” making the front-page of the daily national papers and often-upstaging EPA Administrator Rick Perry.
State Government Reporter Ben Bradford got a closer understanding of California’s role in new climate change agreements through his week with Brown’s delegation and a closer understanding of Brown himself.
He gives us a final report on the trip from Beijing.
On how Governor Brown was received by the people of China
He was like a climate rockstar over there, and I think it really was an international leadership role.
On Governor Brown possibly overstepping boundaries that he was taking a position that may be more on the federal level instead of a position that a state governor would hold
He was very cautious, at least about saying, as he was meeting, that he was representing only California, and that of course they had federal regulations. It is somewhat common for governors to lead trade delegations, and I think to some degree that was how this trip was pitched. There was a lot about clean technology and they did a lot of signing agreements. There was a business coalition along with them. He was so cautious about it because he was playing the role of explaining that states do not necessarily agree with the federal government on climate change and he was saying that states will continue to work on climate change and continue to push action on climate change in spite of the federal government, and he is saying this to foreign countries. So I don't know if he is overstepping his bounds by doing that but certainly sending a different message than what the federal government is sending.
On the differences between Gov. Brown and Rick Perry during the trip
[Rick Perry] was kind of a non entity at this event, while Brown was meeting with the Chinese President, and was on the front page of every paper in China and all over their national and state run TV broadcasts. It is a really interesting contrast between the two of them. [Brown] was clearly more of a leader to the Chinese at this trip as he and the US energy secretary were in the country at the same time, and Brown was the person viewed as more of a leader on energy.
On Gov. Brown mistakenly being congratulated on the misunderstanding that the 100 percent renewable bill by 2050 as a law
It was actually the former UN head of climate change Christiana Figueres, one of the lead people on the Paris agreement who was on stage with the governor and congratulated him on the goal. He said ‘it’s actually not a law yet, it is a bill,’ and she said ‘well I imagine it is going to be a law,’ and he said no comment on it, and she said ‘well you are not going to comment but I am going to congratulate you.’ I had actually asked the governor about the bill earlier in the week, and he said the current goals that California has are daunting, and he mentioned that the state has to reduce its emissions almost half, and it is something where there is a lot of division among energy scientists and professors about whether moving up 100 percent renewable bill by 2050 is an achievable goal in the first place.
On electric vehicles and batteries
It was the main message he discussed. He was telling the Chinese he wants them to invest in battery technology. He wants them to invest in it in California, and I think when you look at the different agreements that he signed in these different provinces and with the Chinese equivalent of Silicon Valley, this place called Zi Park, it is all about clean technology. Ultimately what they want is to create a larger market, so when we talk about making cheaper batteries, it's the idea that we can scale it up and create a larger market and there will be more incentive to figure out how to make more efficient, cheaper batteries, and we’ll have more electric cars.
On the Chinese view of California as a state, economy, and partner in the future
The way they view California is as someone who can help them grow their technology and grow businesses. So this really is a trade delegation in that they are talking about how they foster clean technology businesses that can grow into profitable businesses in both sectors. The governor is really looking for new technologies that California can help develop that will have enough efficient use of electricity that people don't have to give up their lifestyle because he thinks that people won't do that.