Governor Brown Calls for Shared Commitment on Climate Change in Remarks at Tsinghua University



BEIJING, CHINA – Speaking at one of China’s preeminent universities, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. called for unified action to combat climate change on Thursday.

“We’re in one world. We’ve got one big problem and we all have to work on it. And what’s beautiful and exciting about climate change is no one group can solve the problem—not the United States, not California, not Japan, not China—we all have to do it,” said Governor Brown in remarks at Tsinghua University. “This is a great unifier. This is an imperative where human beings could collaborate.”

Governor Brown was joined by Deputy Secretary-General of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Zhao Jiarong, and climate experts from China and California.

The NDRC oversees efforts to address climate change and much of the government’s economic strategy.

Thursday’s remarks followed events throughout Beijing on Wednesday, including meetings with China’s Minister of Commerce, Minister of Environmental Protection, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, a forum with the American Chamber of Commerce – Beijing and a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing with the U.S. Ambassador to China.

Later Thursday, Governor Brown will meet with China’s Premier, Li Keqiang.

This week and next, the Governor will meet with Chinese government and business leaders, highlight bilateral trade and investment opportunities between the two regions and open a new trade and investment office. In addition to Beijing, the trade and investment mission will include events in Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen through Tuesday, April 16th.

Joining the Governor on the trade and investment mission is a delegation organized by the Bay Area Council that includes approximately 90 business, economic development, investment and policy leaders from throughout California. Senior administration officials are also accompanying the delegation.

The Governor’s trade and investment mission follows more than a year of significant diplomatic and business exchanges between the State of California and China. In February 2012, Governor Brown welcomed His Excellency Xi Jinping, then-Vice President, and now President of China, to California. During the visit, Governor Brown announced his intention to visit China, open a trade and investment office and form a China-California Joint Task Force to drive more collaboration, investment and trade between California and China. Later in 2012, the Brown administration convened the inaugural Joint Economic Committee between California and China’s Jiangsu Province, hosted a Chinese delegation led by the Vice Minister of China’s Ministry of Commerce and met with a Chinese delegation led by Deputy Governor Xia Geng of China’s Shandong Province.

Audio of the Governor’s remarks, in full, can be found here.

Text of the Governor’s remarks is copied below:

Thank you very much, first to the University for inviting me, and to all the guests that have come to listen.

I hope that what is said today will be worth all the time and effort that you are putting into this. Before I start, I have to tread lightly because I am going to refer to what I only dimly understand, but I thought being at a University, at a place of learning, I would start with the first few lines of the Analects of Confucius, to give us the right tone.

It starts this way: “The master said; having studied, to then apply what you’ve learned, is this not the source of pleasure? Having friends come from distance places, is this not a place of enjoyment?” And that really is the spirit of our gathering together.

We’ve come from faraway places. We’re building and renewing friendships. And we’re learning and sharing what we learned.

There is nothing more important than to learn. The human spirit is all about adapting, evolving and coping with and learning about an environment. Today we are talking about energy, climate change and the challenges that we must face as human beings. I like the image of a needle. Up until sometime in the eighteen hundreds, humankind did not rely on fossil fuels; not gas, not oil, not coal. And there were only about a billion people on planet earth. But then, discoveries were made and the wonders of fossil fuels became available. And like a sharp needle, the prosperity of much of the world shot up, and so many things became possible.

Factories, trains and then cars and then airplanes. And the population went from a billion to over seven billion. All because of the use of carbon, that has been the great blessing. But unless we can readjust how it is we derive our energy, what has been a blessing becomes a curse.

We as human beings have to get on the side of nature, on the rules of physics, the rules of biology. We don’t repeal them just because we gather in Beijing, or Washington or London. There are iron laws that operate regardless of what we may think about them.

Here in the University, the objective is to understand, to probe as deeply as possible into the pattern of how things work. And, as we enjoy all the wonders of the 21st century, we also understand that there is a dark shadow. That as the greenhouse gases build up, as the planet heats up, there sets in motion changes. Those changes can be irreversible.

Now, when I mention that, I have to say, I’m not the scientist. But over 97% of the peer-reviewed scientist have supported, in one way or another, the science of climate change and the impact that human beings are having on our climate. And it’s not just one group of people or a handful of scientists. The scientific academies of China, Japan, the United States, France, England, Russia all have concluded the same thing—that humans are altering the patterns of climate which have been operating for millennia. And so as this continues, as the heat-trapping gasses build up, many changes take place.

Extreme weather events, drought, rising sea level, changing patterns of disease and insects. All this is predictable and increasingly well known. We don’t know the exact day or year when specific disruptions will occur. But we do know that these disruptions are inevitable on the path that we are now on. When I say we, I mean the United States, China and most of the other countries in the world. We’re all in it together, I might say, making it worse. And so we have to all be in it together to make it better.

There’s one other element of surprise, and that is the unpredictability of what the future might bring. The change does not necessarily have to be steady. The change in our weather patterns, our climate patterns, could be quite shocking, quite unpredictable and quite disruptive. That’s called a non-linear outcome. So, things are changing, the greenhouse gases build up, but all of a sudden a state is reached and extremely adverse impacts can occur. And they will affect different people in different ways.

Africa, which will have a billion people, could see a third of their agricultural productivity reduced. In California, our forest fire season has already lengthened by 30 days. The melting of the snow, which for millennia has occurred over a slow period of time, so that the water is captured steadily in our rivers and utilized in a very careful and planned way—that too will be disrupted and we will have events where the snow melts quickly and the rivers flood with great devastation. Now, whether this is in a few years or a few decades, 97 percent of the peer-reviewed climate scientists all agree, it’s going to happen. So, why don’t we do more?

Well, first of all, we are doing a lot. China is doing a lot. California is doing a lot. If I were to look further east in the United States, they’re not doing much. There’s something they call gridlock. And gridlock says “Don’t worry. It will all turn out okay.” In fact, we even have people who say that climate change is a hoax, and they are in very powerful positions. They say a lot of other stupid things too, but I won’t catalogue all of them.

And the problem is, to do something is difficult. If it were easy, it would already be done. Shifting from the easy burning of fossil fuel to a leaner and more elegant energy production will cost money. It will take collaboration, it will take brain power, it will take research, and I’m very happy to say that California is in the forefront in many respects. I won’t say we are doing enough, because the challenge is so overwhelming that we have to continuously do more.

But, the mere fact that here I am, Office of California, Governor, we’re talking low-carbon – that’s already amazing. It probably wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. We are fortunate that California has been in the lead. Thirty years ago, California adopted energy standards for our buildings and for appliances, and those standards alone over this 30 year period have saved over 50 billion dollars. If the rest of the United States had adopted what California has done, our carbon footprint would be dramatically lower. But, of course, they didn’t do that – so it’s going to cost more. But we pioneered on energy standards.

We are also pioneering renewable energy. California, the only state, has a law that says by 2020, 33 and a third percent of our electricity will come from renewable sources. When I say renewable, I’m not even mentioning hydro-electric or nuclear. I’m referring to solar, wind, geo-thermal, biogas. And today we’re already at 23 percent, we will be at 33 well before 2020, and then we will go beyond.

So, we’re committed. But of course for California to do that, we need partners. We need other states, we need other countries. In pursuing our goal of renewable energy, and solar energy particularly, and photovoltaic specifically, China has been instrumental in driving down the costs and making available that technology. So, there is a real connection. The photovoltaics made by Chinese companies are on roofs all over California, and that will continue because we are not slowing down. We are committed.

The new energy investments create jobs, and they deal with a big problem. And there will be a time when even the skeptics understand that we must reduce, dramatically, our use of carbon. That will come. And when that comes, the industries and the countries that have taken the lead in the low-carbon fuel technologies will be the winners.

This is a great opportunity, it takes some vision. The obvious—everybody gets the obvious, so you’ve got to look over the horizon. Look over, as we know, the scientists say the effects of climate change and global warming are going to either more quickly or maybe more slowly, but eventually it is going to become obvious that you can’t burn coal, you can’t use oil and you can’t use gas.

Now, 50 years, 20 years whatever—we’re on a glide path. So those that can produce the technology that will be able to be compatible with a sustainable climate, sustainable energy, that is a great source of industrial power, of profit.

California also has a goal of a million electric cars by 2025 on the road. That’s very bold. How are we going to get there? Well, the only way we are going to get there is if people in China figure out how to make better batteries. So, that’s how we are going to get there.

By the way, if people in California can figure it out, hallelujah, good. But I think it’s going to take every smart engineer getting the kind of financial backing to invent the batteries of the future that we can have cars that are relatively inexpensive, but are clean. We’re electrifying our railroads, we are going to go the maximum degree because we’ve got a lot of problems in the world, but the problem of dealing with climate is not an optional kind of problem—it’s mandatory. There is no escape.

Now, for the people who like to delude themselves, fine, they can delude themselves. But nature doesn’t play games. It is what it is, and unless those 97% of the climate scientists are wrong, we have to get on a path. And every year we wait, it’s more expensive. And that’s the dilemma, because you say you put in solar instead of coal or natural gas—more expensive. You’ve got to take money from here and put it over here. But every year you wait, it’s going to be a bigger problem. And if it gets too big, you’ll see mass migrations, you’ll see disruptions of all sorts of things.

But, I don’t want to give you the parade of horribles because I want you to feel good. We in the world of politics are in the business of not making you feel bad, but making you feel good. So feel good for a few minutes.

I feel good because we’re getting stuff done in California, and California and China have this intimate connection. First of all, a lot of our best engineers come from China. And if I can change the visa program I am going to get even more Chinese scientists and engineers, because I think we are in one world, we’ve got one big problem, and we all have to work on it.

What’s beautiful and exciting about climate change is no one group can solve the problem. Not the United States, not California, not Japan, not China. We all have to do it. Anybody gets left out, they can continue the disruptive patterns of carbon emissions and all the rest.

This is a great unifier. This is an imperative where human beings could collaborate, and here we are at this great university with so many connections to California. Now, California is not a nation-state. Not yet. But, we are the 9th largest economy in the world. And I remember 30 years ago when I was governor the last time, they said “Your energy efficiency standards, your environmental rules, you’re going to stop growth.” That’s what they said. Well, back then in 1975, the personal income of California was 150 billion dollars. This year, it’s closer to two trillion. So, with the rules, with the environmental investments, with our energy standards, we are actually creating wealth, and we’re creating a better society.

I know China has many issues, you have so much wealth, and you have so many poor people who haven’t enjoyed it. In a similar way, California has a line of wealth along the coast, but as you go further inland you find fewer jobs, you find lower income, you find a lot of difficulty and stress. So we, too, have the challenge to create the social harmony to enable all our citizens to enjoy the benefits of progress and affluence, and the benefits of modern technology.

So, we have many issues in common. And it is about dealing with climate change, it is about science, and research and getting new fuels. But it’s also about social harmony, about learning to live together—learning to live together in each country, and learning to live together among all our different countries. Very different.

And I don’t understand China, but I did pick up the Analects of Confucius and I’m trying to figure it out. It’s not that easy a book to read. But I do want to read the last sentence of Confucius’ first phrase in book one. Here’s what he says “To go unacknowledged by others without harboring frustration, is this not the mark of an exemplary person?”

Well, I’ve gone unacknowledged for a long time. I’m not frustrated, but I’m sure glad to be here this morning.

Thank you very much.