A Bottom-Up Climate Approach

Governor's Office
Photo: Governor's Office

The second Governors’ Climate Summit kicked off yesterday with a plenary on adaptation to climate change. Most of the climate policy we hear about has to do with mitigation; cutting emissions to reduce the rate of climate warming. Increasingly, though, policy makers are looking at ways to adapt to the effects that are already palpable.

Several international leaders had stories to tell:

– Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia said that due to warming winters, pine beetles will kill 80% of the mature pine forests in his province by 2013.

– Dr. Dessima Williams of the Alliance of Small Island States said rising sea levels make climate change “a case of life and death” for island nations.

According to a World Bank analysis cited by Michele De Nevers of the Bank’s Environment Department, adapting to climate change will cost $75-100 billion dollars a year for developing countries–and that’s with only 2 degrees (Celsius) of warming by 2050. That seems like a big number, but De Nevers reminded the crowd that it’s on par with the recent financial bailout.

I also spoke with Margret Kim, China Program Director for the California Air Resources Board and EPA, who has been working with the government of the Jiangsu Province in China.  She filled me in on the agreement that Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to sign today with leaders from the province to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Based on this framework, California would develop an action plan to share expertise and research with the province.

This partnership is built on a 2005 agreement that California signed with the province, which was focused on energy efficiency. Barbara Finamore of the Natural Resources Defense Council says real progress was made on the first agreement with Jiangsu, which set several efficiency incentives and programs in motion. But they have more to do.  Ninety-five percent of the province’s electricity comes from coal.

The announcement comes on the heels of President Hu Jintao’s declaration less than two weeks ago that China would make notable reductions in its carbon intensity by 2020.  Carbon intensity isn’t quite as simple as a straight emissions cut. It measures the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output.  And fixed targets aren’t part of the expected Jiangsu agreement either. But Finamore says this is a landmark agreement since it shows an important shift in China’s willingness to tackle climate change. As she said, “I’ve been working in China on energy issues for more than 20 years, and there has been a tremendous amount of recent progress.” And a bottom-up approach–with states piloting environmental policies before national governments adopt them–is certainly something we’re familiar with in California.

A Bottom-Up Climate Approach 2 October,2009Lauren Sommer

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Lauren Sommer

Lauren is a radio reporter formerly covering environment, water, and energy for KQED Science. As part of her day job, she has scaled Sierra Nevada peaks, run from charging elephant seals, and desperately tried to get her sea legs - all in pursuit of good radio. Her work has appeared on Marketplace, Living on Earth, Science Friday and NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can find her on Twitter at @lesommer.

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