“Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government should act more aggressively to combat climate change, and almost as many say the problem is already affecting their community in some way” according to a Pew Research Center survey released on June 23rd this year.

While Democrats and Republicans diverge sharply over the question of whether human activity is contributing “a great deal” (72% Democrats vs 22% Republicans) or only “some” (22% Democrat vs 43% Republicans) to climate change, strong majorities of both parties recognize the human contribution and want the government to do more about it.

The story of this post goes back some twelve years. It’s a story of how bipartisanship and cooperative outreach can lead change. It shows what can be achieved when we focus, with a grounding in science, on the common good.  We’re not doing that successfully now with COVID-19.  We’re not doing it successfully now with climate change either  But it’s within reach to do better.

As the second term of the George W. Bush Administration was winding down, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson sensed drift in the U.S.-China relationship. An avid birder and a passionate outdoorsman, Paulson found himself drawn to the environment as a possible new basis for cooperative engagement with China.  If sufficient trust could be generated between the U.S. and China – especially among the career administrators responsible for climate policy in both countries – the quarter-century logjam that had impeded global action on climate change might free up.

What was that logjam?  Ever since the mid-1970s, when the United Nations had first identified climate change as a long-term economic and political threat to the community of nations, the United States and China had never seen the issue eye-to-eye.  The U.S., acting as the de facto leader of the developed nations, wanted joint action with the developing nations but didn’t want the developed nations to be forced to shoulder most costs.  China, as de facto leader of the developing nations, wanted joint action but insisted the developing nations should foot most of the bill.  Their argument, somewhat disingenuous but appealing in its simplicity, used a restaurant tab as an analogy.  Why should developing nations, who had come late to the industrial revolution party, be splitting the bill for all the courses when they had only participated in the post-WWII dessert course?  (The ploy buried in this argument is, of course, that the rates of consumption and carbon output of the post-WWII phase of industrial development outstripped significantly the previous century on a cumulative basis and the developing nations were on course to grow their consumption and carbon output in coming decades while developing nations were moderating theirs).  In any case, this divergence of approach led directly to the breakdown of the Kyoto Protocol in 1999 (and also to the less consequential but unseemly debacle between President Obama and the Chinese delegation at the COP20 (20th UN Conference of Parties) meeting in Copenhagen in 2009).

So against this background, Secretary Paulson traveled to Beijing for discussions with his Chinese government counterparts about a new framework for coordination on global economic issues, resolution of trade disputes and strategic cooperation to mitigate climate change. While on that trip, Paulson traveled with his China-hand Deputy Chief of Staff, Taiya Smith, to Lake Qinghai to see first-hand the condition of that world-heritage lake and its wetland bird habitat.  At the water’s edge, Paulson picked up some beverage cans and plastic bottles discarded there by fishermen and tourists. The Chinese officials traveling with him were surprised and impressed to see a Cabinet-level U.S. official stoop, literally, to help clear a Chinese lake of trash.  In that moment, a ten-year run of strategic cooperation on clean energy and the environment between the U.S. and China was launched.

Over the past two academic years, I taught a masters level course for the University of Pennsylvania’s International Masters of Public Administration with the official Ten Year Framework (TYF) for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Environment as the focal case-study.  I could say a lot about it but, for the purpose of this post, I have only a single point to make.

The TYF is a case-study in the hard work of cooperation.  Launched in late 2008 by a Republican administration, handed off post-inauguration to the Obama Administration in early 2009, and then officially signed by President Obama and President Hu Jintao in November 2019, the first four years of the TYF created a “safe place” – beyond the prying eyes of the press and partisan grandstanders — where officials from the U.S. and China could educate each other about what might be possible and what would be perilous to undertake in their respective administrative and political systems. In short, they learned to trust one another to move in a common direction. The result of this four years of hard work was another official public act by President Obama and the new Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in November 11, 2014.  The two presidents announced with fanfare that, for the first time in over forty years, the U.S. and China were ready to work together to lead the world towards a climate change agreement.  Once that announcement was made between the U.S. and China, all it took was thirteen more months for over 190 other nations to join with the U.S. and China in agreeing to the Paris Accord at the COP21 meeting.

The TYF is a lesson in leadership or, more precisely, co-leadership.  But it’s over.  What relevance does it have in August 2020?  Less than six months into his Presidency, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Accord.  Now, in the lead-up to the November elections, each day brings a new low in U.S.-China relations.  As someone who was serving at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai before, during and after Tiananmen, I feel able to make the assessment that we are now at a lower point in the U.S.-China relationship than we were even then.  The question is where to do we go from here?

That question is valid and complicated where our relationship is deeply fraught – advanced technology and global supply chains, minority rights in Xinjiang, political space for Hong Kong and Taiwan, military build-ups in the East and South China Seas – but the question is much simpler where our national interests are clearly aligned – in leading the world’s transition to lower-carbon energy in order to build resilience and mitigate climate change for the planet.  Either the U.S. cedes a mega-industry of the future to China along with leadership of the Paris Accord community of nations or the U.S. steps forward again on the global stage with its unparalleled technology leadership and with renewed political vision.  What will this look like?  It will look like working with allies and not against them. It will involve not just supporting the planting of a billion trees globally and helping Big Coal capture and sequester carbon emissions underground but marshaling across-the-board governmental support to spur innovation across the entire spectrum of low-carbon solutions. It will require us to re-enter the Paris Accord and re-learn how to work productively with China in that particular arena while holding China to account in the many other arenas where our interests are at loggerheads.

Trump’s announcement of U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord was on June 1, 2017.  The framers of the Paris Accord, mindful of political cross-winds that can blow in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, included an Article 28 requirement that a four-year waiting period pass before any country’s withdrawal could be formalized.  The date kicking off that waiting period for the U.S. is November 4, 2016, the day on which the Obama Administration secured ratification by Congress of U.S. entry into the Paris Accord.  So, U.S. withdrawal cannot under any circumstance become official until the day after the upcoming November 3rd election in the U.S.

So there’s the Sixty-Seven Percent solution. With nearly two-thirds of Americans believing the federal government should act more aggressively to combat climate change and with the Paris Accord signatories able to be flexible and eager to welcome a Biden-led America back into the Accord, it’s time for a majority to stand up again in unison.  For each of our poor souls, for our country, for the community of nations and for the planet.

E pluribus (67%) unum.

 

 

 

As the U.S. and China continue to face off daily over technology and other issues, I have been listening, as my dog Max and I walk each day, to the brilliant History of Rome podcast series by Mike Duncan (2007-12).  One thing is clear from the endless wars which Rome undertook over the course of a millennium against the Latins, the Etruscans, the Samnians and the Carthaginians during the Republic; against each other during the Civil Wars; and against the Greeks, the Syrians, the Parthians and others during the early Empire (which is as far as I’ve gotten so far) – wars were started as often as a result of misreading – or cynically exploiting– an opponents’ real intentions as they were from any meeting of minds over the actual need for conflict. (Mind you – we’re talking here about the miscalculations that get conflicts started, not the logic which takes over once military actions have been initiated).

With that in mind, I am reminded of a March 2019 article by Katherine Epstein, a member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.  This article gives a clear overview of the attitudinal and behavioral parallels marking America’s 18th c. rise in a British-led world order and China’s emergence in the U.S.-led post-WWII global system.  A common structural dynamic is at play in both instances.

To Understand China, Look to America’s History

In challenging Britain’s hegemony a century ago, U.S. tactics look similar to Beijing’s today.

By Katherine C. Epstein
March 19, 2019 7:15 p.m. ET
Wall Street Journal

There’s been a good deal of hand-wringing in the U.S. over efforts by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to replace U.S. suppliers of advanced equipment and wire the world with its 5G network. Most analysis of China’s strategy turns on the conviction that the Chinese are trying to challenge U.S. commercial and geopolitical hegemony—they steal U.S. technology and then sell their plagiarized equipment at a lower price. Worse, they seek to build an alternative, China-led global telecom infrastructure, positioning Beijing to spy on the users and capture yet more U.S. commerce.

As a historian, I’m struck by the incompleteness of this analysis. Two crucial pieces are missing.

The first is any sense that the threat posed by Chinese control of a global telecom infrastructure might not be limited to espionage or (that other favorite metaphor) a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” The potential danger may be wider and deeper—and the World War I era shows why.

Before that war, like today, the global economy was highly integrated. This was the first era of globalization. Advanced industrial, urbanized societies depended on international trade, requiring uninterrupted access to the infrastructure that girded the global economic commons. Interruptions to that access had the potential to cause economic derangement, rapidly leading to social and political instability. In other words, control of the infrastructure conferred commercial advantage and it could also be weaponized.

A century ago, Britain acted on this insight. In addition to eavesdropping on enemy and neutral communications, the government acted to regulate the British firms that dominated the services necessary to conduct global trade: the global communications network, the financial-services industry (including commercial credit and marine insurance) and oceanic transportation. Britain used its control over the infrastructure of global trade not simply to spy on its enemy, nor to strike enemy military assets, but to mount a systematic assault on the whole of an enemy’s economy—in 21st-century parlance, a massive denial-of-service attack against enemy society.

Returning to the present, both the espionage model, which refers to targeted state spying, and the cyber-Pearl Harbor analogy, which refers to an essentially conventional military attack, fail to capture the systemic and social qualities of a certain type of attack. In this context, reflect on Russia’s efforts to interfere with U.S. elections. Partisanship aside, Moscow has managed, at relatively low cost, to reduce the confidence that Americans have in each other and the electoral process. It waged a successful psy-op, compromising not material resources but social confidence. Its campaign showed that foreign countries can manipulate information within global networks to sow distrust within American society.

What would a scaled-up version of this attack look like? What if it were carried out over a China-dominated information network?

The second missing piece is awareness that if China is trying to challenge (or escape) U.S. hegemony by stealing American technology and building an alternative global telecommunications infrastructure, this would be analogous to what the U.S. tried to do vis-à-vis Britain, then the global hegemon, and the other great powers in the World War I era. Americans tend to forget how powerful Britain was and how weak the U.S. remained before World War I.

In its drive for world status, America routinely pilfered foreign technology well into the 20th century, and it gained considerable strategic advantage from its theft. The 1912 Supreme Court case Crozier v. Krupp, which formally extended the power of eminent domain to intellectual property, concerned a German gun-carriage design the U.S. Army had plagiarized. That same year, a U.S. naval officer walked off with the plan for the British navy’s super-secret long-range torpedo. During World War I, Washington expropriated German chemical intellectual property held in the U.S., providing an enormous boon to America’s chemical industry.

In World War II, the U.S. received huge inflows of scientific and technological knowledge from Britain, then slapped secrecy restrictions on subsequent developments to prevent any flow back to Britain. Many more examples could be adduced. Historically, it might be said, Americans are an imitative people.

The U.S. came to appreciate the significance of controlling global economic infrastructure when Britain’s campaign of economic warfare against Germany in World War I caused huge collateral damage to the American economy. Companies like RCA worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Navy to build a global telecommunications grid—perhaps similar to the way Huawei, run by a former Chinese army officer, may be working hand-in-hand with the Chinese army.

Wall Street cooperated with the U.S. government to develop a modern financial-services industry deliberately intended to help New York displace London as the world’s financial capital—perhaps similar to the way China has developed its own Swift payment-clearing system. Woodrow Wilson’s administration attempted to build an oceangoing merchant marine so the U.S. wouldn’t have to rely on Britain’s—perhaps similar to the way China is attempting to increase its control over the global oceangoing merchant marine.

In short, a century ago, the U.S. was the China of the age: an up-and-coming revisionist nation chafing against the established powers, importing and pirating what it could, free-riding on the security provided by the existing hegemon, and legitimizing its behavior with the pious conviction that it was on the right side of history. Could it be that the Chinese understand U.S. history better than Americans do?

It’s easy to be moralistic about China, but in the quest to find a sound U.S. strategy, we need less pearl-clutching and more imagination. Rising powers have compelling strategic incentives to control the sinews of global economic activity as well as to acquire foreign technology. Americans and their allies should ask themselves whether they would rather live in a world under U.S. or Chinese hegemony—and what they can do about it.

Ms. Epstein is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden, and a director of the Naval Historical Foundation.

So, what’s the point? As  Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, would be quick to point out, the British themselves had established their naval-led Empire by upending Spain’s Armada, which had earlier navigated its way to world power status by stealing from the Portuguese the same “rudders” (mariner’s handbook of written sailing directions) which the Portuguese had stolen from the then-ascendant Arab empire.

Well, the point is that, as the U.S. and China edge ever-closer to an actual or pretextual spark of open conflict, we need to stay sharp-eyed.  Given the incalculable costs which outright conflict between the U.S. and China would exact from both countries and the world, it is a political necessity and a moral imperative to keep an accurate picture of the structural situation in our field of vision.  This is where Katherine Epstein’s article is useful.  A picture with gray-tones is always more accurate and revealing than a simple black-and-white picture.  Harder to argue in a sound-bite perhaps, but more consistent with the leadership we need.

FPRI HK Publication Graphic

On January 29, the Hong Kong governent announced potential amendments to its extradition laws that would allow suspects to be extradited to countries with which the city has no formal extradition agreements. According to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the bill was a response to a murder case in Taiwan, where the suspect had fled back to Hong Kong and now could not be called to face justice. In Lam’s mind, plugging this legal loophole would also fulfill a longtime wish of Beijing: that political dissidents and corrupt officials alike could now be tried in the mainland’s own courts.

When Lam subsequently fast-tracked the bill through the legislature, confident that rising concerns were either misguided or sure to eventually be assuaged, she could not have foreseen the oncoming storm: that resistance to the bill, to her leadership, and eventually to the entire political system altogether would spiral into marches of millions and an opposition movement that shows no signs of going away. After all, hadn’t the pro-democracy movement largely splintered and faded away in the wake of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, having failed to achieve its political goals and suffered decisive losses at the polls in 2018? Wasn’t the populace as a whole widely apatheticcynical, and disillusioned with civil disobedience?

Yet for over a month and counting, protest after protest has been staged in the city, with a cumulative participation of 4,228,900. Carrie Lam has been forced to declare the bill first “suspended” and now “dead”—though even this most recent announcement still stops short of full withdrawal, and has failed to appease her critics. Opponents of the bill have decried sending fugitives to a justice system that boasts a 99.9% conviction rate and argued that extradition would violate the autonomy promised to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” policy, which was designed in the lead-up to the 1997 handover of the former British colony back to China and which granted Hong Kong its own separate judiciary, legislative system, and free Internet and press. More than being a simple change of law, the bill was seen as a fundamental challenge to the rights and freedoms that have made Hong Kong more than just another Chinese city.

Underpinning the events of the past month has been a recurring pattern of government indecision and inertia fueling the momentum of the movement. Demand after demand went unacknowledged; scenes of police brutality shocked a city whose police force had until then been considered “Asia’s finest”; and demonstrators’ slogans have evolved from calling for the extradition bill’s withdrawal to asking for universal suffrage and democracy. Most recently, protests have moved on to explicitly attract the attention of Chinese from the mainland, as on July 7 a march of 230,000 was held at the West Kowloon station that connects the mainland to Hong Kong, and many slogans were shouted in Mandarin instead of Cantonese. Protesters are no longer simply demanding the bill’s withdrawal, although even that demand alone has yet to be granted, but for fundamental reform. Here’s how it all happened.

Hong Kong in Protest

June 9Over 1 million people took to the streets protesting the extradition law (1 in 7 of the city’s population). Backlash to the bill came not only from traditional opposition stakeholders but also from the likes of judges and businesses; the crowds that turned up on June 9 reflected this diverse set of converging interests.

June 10Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to withdraw the bill and instead doubled down on her commitment to push the amendments forward. In response, organisers called on protesters to reconvene around the Legislative Council (LegCo) building at 10:00 on June 12.

June 12: Tens of thousands of protesters began occupying the roads to the point that lawmakers were unable to gain access to the legislative complex, forcing the debate on the bill to be postponed. Shortly after 3:00—the deadline protesters had set for the government to withdraw the extradition bill—some protesters tried storming LegCo headquarters.

At this point, police began using tear gaspepper spray, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Video footage documents police violence against largely unarmed crowds of mostly young people; at least 72 protesters were injured, and two were arrested while in the hospitalIn response, Lam reaffirmed her support for the police, described the protests as an “organised riot,” and continued to stand by the extradition amendment.

June 15: Lam announced the suspension of the extradition law, stating that no date had been set for the “next step forward.” Protesters remained unhappy Lam ignored their other core demands, and argued that since suspension did not mean withdrawal, the bill could still be reintroduced at any time.

June 16: Two million people packed the streets, more than a quarter of the city’s population, demanding a full withdrawal of the bill, the retraction of the “riot” characterization, the release of all arrested protesters, an investigation of police brutality, and Lam’s resignation.

June 21-June 30A series of road occupations were staged after authorities failed to answer protesters’ demands. Protesters occupied the area around government and police headquarterskey thoroughfares, and other government buildings.

July 1Ahead of the flag-raising ceremony commemorating the 1997 handover, police deployed pepper spray and batons against demonstrators who occupied roads around the venue early in the morning. In the afternoon, 550,000 protesters attended the annual July 1 democracy march, the highest ever turnout.

In a separate demonstration, protesters stormed the legislative building, smashing through glass walls and vandalizing the inner chamber. Demonstrators tore down portraits of past LegCo presidents and spray-painted pro-democracy slogans on the main chamber’s walls, including one that said, “It was you who told me peaceful marches did not work”. At the same time, they barricaded off books and cultural artifacts for protection, and left cash behind for the drinks they helped themselves to.

July 7In attempts to reach mainland audiences, and to breach China’s extensive censorship of the protests230,000 marched to the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminal located in a popular tourist district. The peaceful demonstration ended in baton charges by riot police in a bid to disperse protesters.

The Anti-Extradition Protests in a Hong Kong Perspective

The anti-extradition protests have been about far more than extradition. This specific topic may have proven the most perfectly calibrated to the frequencies of public anger, yet crowd sizes, breaking record after record, point to a far deeper wellspring of outrage long fomented by cumulative years of misgovernance—and, most recently, of sharply escalating repression.

In 2003, a law known as “Article 23” was proposed that would criminalize acts of sedition and subversion against mainland China; in 2014, a “Moral and National Education” civics course was announced for all Hong Kong schools in response to Chinese senior leaders’ observations that the city’s youth needed to better “love the motherland”; in 2014, long-awaited constitutional reforms that would have allowed for general elections for the Chief Executive were revealed to only permit voting on a limited number of pre-approved candidates. The next year saw five people, all linked to a Hong Kong bookshop that published books banned in China, disappear. Hong Kong dropped to 70th in the world on the global press freedom index, from 18th best in 2002. In July 2017, Carrie Lam became the Chief Executive despite not being the most popular candidate—she was, of course, favored by Beijing. In October 2018, the government issued its first-ever visa denial to a foreign journalist, after he moderated a Foreign Correspondents’ Club event in August that featured a talk by the convenor of the pro-independence National Party, Andy Chan Ho-tin. The National Party was banned on national security grounds in September that year. In April 2019, shortly after introducing the extradition amendments, nine leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement were convicted for “public nuisance.”

Millions of people in Hong Kong marched in recognition that the extradition bill was simply the latest of many attempts at suppression—and that, should the law pass and vastly expand the reach of China’s retribution, this act of protest could very well be their last.

Yet, in a city that has been both a bridge to and a refuge from the mainland, political space has long been defined by a continuous push-and-pull between authoritarian pressures from Beijing and civic freedoms in Hong Kong: free Internet, tenacious independent journalists, industrious activists, prominent dissidents, and, perhaps most importantly of all, an entire generation of young people who in 2014 came to maturity on the picket lines of protest. The 2003 sedition law was withdrawn, followed by the then-Chief Executive’s resignation after crowds of over 500,000 marched against its implementation. The 2011 national education law was also shelved, having drawn protests of 90,000 in July and 120,000 in September. Members of the 2014 Umbrella Movement might not have brought about the change in the system they dreamed of, but they left a legacy nonetheless. In this city of “liberty without democracy,” described as such (and fittingly so) by Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, citizens have long been voting with their feet. To protest in the streets of Hong Kong is to partake in, and add to, this shared inheritance of civil protest.

Demonstrators this time around knew what to be afraid of. Throughout the week, departing protesters formed unusually long lines at subway stations’ single-use ticket machines, because cash is less easily tracked. Demonstrators turned off location tracking on their phones, and deleted conversations and photos on social media and messaging apps; switching, in the latter case, from the typically most popular WhatsApp to the better encrypted Telegram, which became the #1 most downloaded app in the city. Yet, for all its encryption, protesters may not be fully safe, as police have reportedly collected identification information from protest group chats with tens of thousands of members; on June 11, authorities arrested the administrator of a group chat of 20,000, Ivan Ip, despite Ip being at his home miles away from the protest site. One day later, Telegram reported experiencing powerful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from “IP addresses coming mostly from China.” Gas masks, goggles, caps, and helmets helped protect protesters against tear gas and pepper spray—and they also helped hide their faces. Following major demonstrations, police have been searching vehicles and hospital rooms for protesters, with one driver arrested on July 2 for possessing “offensive weapons”—a pair of scissors and his asthma drugs. As of July 7, 61 have been arrested on protest-related charges. One of them is 14 years old.

What comes of the anti-extradition movement is of paramount importance; at the same time, it almost doesn’t matter. If the protests succeed, they should inspire the world. If the protests fail, they should still inspire the world. Governed by a system where the ballot is largely meaningless, people are voting with their bodies instead. Hong Kongers are more afraid, and more determined, than ever before.

 

Authors:

Due to the situation in Hong Kong after the implementation of the National Security Law, the identity of the primary author of this piece has been removed for safety concerns.

M. Terry Cooke is a Senior Fellow in the Asia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He founded the China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia in 2011.

@mterrycooke

The headwinds are strong at the moment but, knowing how to tack, we at China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia will still get to our goal. Market forces are at center-stage now and with the Trump Administration stepping back at the national level, sub-national leaders like California and Philadelphia are stepping forward in support of U.S.-China co-leadership on climate change.
 
Xi Jinping by Abode of Chaos artist Thierry Ehrmann
(Even the Trump Administration’s effort to undo the Clean Power Plan has a long way to go through the courts and the constitutional process. The clear science of proven medical benefit behind the Clean Power Plan (i.e., closing down coal-fired utilities) may prove decisive for the judicial branch and hand the Trump Administration yet another loss in federal court).

by Terry Cooke

Reposted from original publication in the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 7, 2017
Click here to link to original article

chinese-president-xi-arrives-01-rgb-480xx4672-2631-0-151

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet with President Xi Jinping for the first time this week, the world is watching closely.  Of particular importance is the ‘gut feeling’ which each leader will take away following their informal sessions together in Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and Friday. At the bilateral level, will the leaders trust each other to hold to the last quarter-century’s course of strategic engagement or will pressures from North Korea or from economic nationalism precipitate outright conflict?  At the global level, will the two share some intuition that the national security of both countries requires continued demonstration of U.S.-China co-leadership on the world stage in confronting climate change? Or will they accept the break-down of the Paris COP21 breakthrough?

While the initial meeting between these two men is doubtless important, engaged citizens must remind themselves that their voices too matter greatly in answering these questions.  Fortunately, in the Greater Philadelphia region, we already have a place on this global stage.  With history to prompt us and the present-day resources of the city and region to guide our role, we can speak up and be heard on these vital questions.

How?  Start by recognizing that U.S. policies toward China and climate change are inseparably linked.  There is simply no global solution to the climate change challenge without cooperation between our two countries.  Look at the history of talks on climate change between the advanced and developing worlds, which spun their wheels for a quarter-century, enduring breakdowns in Kyoto and Copenhagen.  It was only following the first tentative gestures of cooperation between the U.S. and China in 2009, building eventually to a Presidential-level announcement of joint commitments by Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in November 2014, that a first-ever global agreement on action steps could emerge in Paris in December 2015.

Similarly, there is no possibility of the U.S. and China sustaining their cooperation on the climate change front if the U.S. starts viewing China as an outright antagonist.  The relationship between the U.S. and China is too complex and dynamic for simple “friend or foe” typologies.  The two sides must manage conflict in those areas where U.S. and Chinese national interests diverge (North Korea, cyber, South & East China Seas, etc) and maximize cooperation in those areas where national interests are shared (climate change cooperation, counter-terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, etc).

Can a metropolitan region like Greater Philadelphia play a meaningful role on this monumental global stage?  Not only can we, we have been called to do so.  In their joint 2014 announcement, Presidents Obama and Xi made clear that, with the stage for bi-national and multi-national cooperation against climate change effectively built, the spotlight was now on ‘sub-national actors’  — cities and states, the private sector, and NGOs – to step forward and implement actions “at the local level where they matter most.”  City actors are particularly important on this stage because more than half of humanity now lives in cities and mayors have direct influence over the urban built environment and the metropolitan transportation systems that together account for roughly two-thirds of global greenhouse emissions.

Moreover, Philadelphia boasts a unique history of cooperation with China, reaching back to 1784 when The Empress of China, a ship captained and financed by Philadelphians, began the first commercial trading voyage to China from the newly formed United States.  This sparked a century-long trade boom – furs, woods, and silver coins from America for artworks and exotic foodstuffs from China – that brought lasting mutual benefit.  So much so that, at the time of the Centennial World Fair in Philadelphia in 1876, the Guangxu Emperor sent a personal emissary and over 6,000 categories of objects, staking China’s claim as the largest foreign pavilion at the exhibition and helping to establish this event by upstart Americans among the top tier of world exhibitions.  With those strands of history in the weave, it was especially fitting that, 96 years later, President Nixon selected Maestro Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra to travel to China in 1973 to boost diplomacy with people-to-people outreach.  With this ‘cultural diplomacy’ helping overcome a quarter-century of isolation and enmity between the U.S. and China, Philadelphia and Tianjin were able to become the first two U.S-China Sister Cities in 1980.

It is not only historical experience but, more importantly, present-day resources that equip Philadelphia to take a leading role on this epochal stage.  We are recognized, nationally and internationally, as a leading center for innovation and application in a wide-range of energy-efficient building, smart grid and other clean energy technologies.  We are pioneering open data initiatives and other forms of innovative public/private collaboration that improve the urban environment.  Crucially, our region is home to globally-acclaimed universities, and it offers lifestyle amenities that attract the best-and-brightest to study and live.  In fact, the most comprehensive study of the U.S. clean energy economy (Brookings, 2011) identifies Philadelphia as the fulcrum of a clean energy super-corridor of innovation and job-creation stretching from northern Virginia to the Boston area.

There is, and will remain for some time, uncertainty at the national level over the Trump Administration’s policies toward China and climate change.   But we can take positive and effective action now. We can welcome our P.R.C.-national students (UPenn alone has 2,100) and young professionals as ‘new Philadelphians’ and introduce them to ‘green Philadelphia’ (including The Circuit network of hiking and biking paths in the largest urban park system in the country; and the Northern Liberties and other urban lifestyle neighborhoods of the future).  We can work with our private sector and business associations to encourage them to start looking across the Pacific as readily as they do the Atlantic.  We can support organizations like Citizens Diplomacy International, Global Philadelphia Association and China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia which are innovating new models of engagement on platforms of cultural, trade and investment, and environmental leadership.  In the best tradition of Philadelphia – a wellspring of civic and social activism and home to Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s most creative thinkers —  we can lead with a spirit of cooperation and prove yet again that innovation is the surest path to a better future.

Terry Cooke is the author of Sustaining U.S.-China Cooperation in Clean Energy (2012) and the founding director of China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia.  Previously, he served in the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with postings in Taipei, Berlin, Tokyo and Shanghai.

By Anum Yoon

Reposted from the Triple Pundit website post on May 2015

Seoul, South Korea, was ranked as the most sustainable city in Asia by
Seoul, South Korea, was ranked as the most sustainable city in Asia on this year’s Sustainable Cities Index, thanks in part to its planned “smart city,” Songdo. If this rendering makes the city look massive, that’s because it will be: Its future population is projected at around 2 million — around the same as the cities of Detroit and Philadelphia combined.

This year’s Sustainable Cities Index reported the top 10 sustainable cities of 2015. The Index provided an overview of 50 of the world’s cities and what their performance rankings were in relation to the factors of people, planet and profit – the three pillars of the triple bottom line. Europe dominated the top 10 overall rankings, holding seven of the 10 places. And with good reason: Europe has developed an impressive environmental legislation over the past 40 years. They have continuously demonstrated how improving the environment could drive innovation and job creation, while improving the quality of life for everyone.

But seeing those European cities on the list isn’t what impressed me. I was more fascinated by the fact that the remaining three rankings were held by Asian cities. While no American city made the top 10 list (with Boston holding 15th place), three cities proved that global sustainability is becoming increasingly dependent on the implementation of effective environmental policies in the developed cities of Asia.

Here are the sustainable cities in Asia that were successful in finding a better equilibrium in terms of development and progress:

Seoul: Ranked No. 7

Over the past 60 years, South Korea has grown from a war-torn nation to a major world power, becoming the 13th largest economy in terms GDP. This is quite impressive for a nation with a population of only 50 million. The capital and largest city, Seoul, is the product of this rapid economic growth. With over 25.6 million people living in the metropolitan area, Seoul shares the same problems as other large cities, including detrimental impact on the environment. It seemed the citizens of Seoul faced the choice between an improved quality of life and helping the environment… Or did they?

Forward-thinkers look to the idealized notion of the “ubiquitous city” in order to strive toward becoming a more sustainable city. The key to the ubiquitous city concept is technology. Seoul is a world leader in terms of digital governance and open data. This includes an extensive high-speed Internet network. In a ubiquitous city, the free flow of data allows citizens to understand their impact on the environment, as well as the best steps to take in order to reduce their negative effect. The idea is that, by improving technology infrastructure, urban residents can shape their lifestyles in an eco-friendly manner. An example of this in action is the Personal Travel Assistant system. This system delivers real-time information of the public transportation network. It allows the user to access information on carbon emissions and other green transportation options.

South Korea has taken this idea a step further by initiating a project on a huge scale,  with the purpose of building the “smart city” Songdo. This city lies near the Seoul airport and has a future projected population of 2 million. This “city on a hill” has the technology and green space to live up to this moniker. It will successfully sustain an underground system of tubes for disposing of waste, universal broadband, integrated sensor networks, and green buildings to truly make it the “city of the future.”

Songdo may soon become the benchmark that the rest of Seoul will work toward, for achieving both a high quality of living and a sustainable city.

Hong Kong: Ranked No. 8

Hong Kong rose to international prominence in the late 1970s, acting as a trading hub between China and the rest of the world. This led Hong Kong to become one of the world’s financial centers that boasts a high GDP and quality of living. This rapid growth, however, also brought about the age-old problems that go hand in hand with urbanization: pollution and environmental degradation. Hong Kong has thus taken steps to curb these negative effects.

Hong Kong has a Council for Sustainable Development, which operates the Sustainable Development Fund. This fund of $100 million is provided to act as financial support for initiatives that will promote awareness for sustainable development, as well as initiatives that encourage sustainable practices. This promotes the active involvement of the citizenry through nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Leadership in Hong Kong seems to take the view that individual efforts and policy changes will lead to sustainable growth.

Technology has also played an important role in Hong Kong’s sustainability. Citizens of Hong Kong extensively utilize non-motorized and public transit. The Octopus Smart Card makes it easy for users to pay for public transit as well as parking. The smart card can also be used for grocery stores and vending machines. This convenience and usability makes public transit a more desirable option. There are also laws preventing certain types of personal behavior, such as spitting in public, littering, and consuming food or drinks on any public transportation.

Singapore: Ranked No. 10

Singapore has made tremendous progress since its independence in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first prime minister, wanted Singapore to outshine other developed countries in areas of cleanliness and efficient transport systems. Singapore’s famouschewing gum ban is one of the many successful environmentally-friendly initiatives that are enforced through the legal system. You’re even legally required to flush public toilets in Singapore. It’s interesting to note that Hong Kong is one of Singapore’s biggest admirers in terms of imposing bans and penalties on certain types of “rude” behavior.

Singapore also has something called the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines a cohesive plan of action for all citizens to follow in order to create a more sustainable city. It targets green and blue spaces, transportation, resource sustainability, air quality, drainage, and community stewardship. Much like Hong Kong and Seoul, Singapore relies on advanced technology and a robust public transportation network.

However, Singapore was able to take on a problem unique to its city — the need to import potable water from Malaysia — and turned it into an economic strength. Singaporean policies supporting innovation to solve this problem lead to over 100 companies developing a profitable niche industry in collecting rainwater and recycling water. Their technologies have spread around the globe.

Singapore not only relies on technology, but also on its own citizens. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint emphasizes community involvement in conserving resources and preserving green spaces.

The future of urbanization

It seems that these three cities have some significant similarities:

  1. Robust and convenient public transportation
  2. Relatively recent economic growth
  3. Utilization of advanced technology
  4. High GDP per capita ($30,000+ GDP per capita)
  5. Space limitations

Space limitations may be the driving force for these advanced Asian cities and their environmentally friendly innovations. Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul are all small areas that have space restrictions, and thus high population densities. Where in other places, people can simply spread out (see Los Angeles), these cities cannot. Singapore is a city-state; Hong Kong was historically bordered by not-so-friendly China; and the Seoul metro area is slowly taking over South Korea, with half of the country’s population, 25 million people, living in the Seoul metro. Everyone feels the need to live in these cities, even when there is a severe lack of space.

With space constraints, pollution gets worse; there is less green space, more litter and a higher demand for resources. This led these three cities to deal with the sustainability issue in similar ways, which all boil down to infrastructure. Since each city has the wealth to deal with the problem, they do, using technology to improve infrastructure. Infrastructure means more communication between citizens, better recycling efforts, better public transit, better waste disposal and better emissions management.

Image credits: 1) Songdo IBD   All others via Flickr – M.Bob & Kenny Teo

Anum Yoon is a writer who is passionate about personal finance and sustainability. As a regular contributor to the Presidio Graduate School’s blog, she often looks for ways she can incorporate money management with environmental awareness. You can read her updates on Current on Currency.

The motto of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is ‘knowledge in the public service.’  This publication of mine from September 2012 is made available to the public free of charge here by downloadable PDF.

Book Cover

INTRODUCTION

At the time of my initial appointment to the Wilson Center, it struck me that something was missing from the general discussion in the United States concerning China’s embrace of clean energy and its implications for the United States. Much of what had been written embraced one of two polar positions. It seemed that the U.S.-China relationship in clean energy was either the best avenue for our cooperation or the measuring stick for our final competition. To a casual but concerned reader, the message was confusing. Newspaper “word-bites,” rather than informing discussion, lent anxiety to the existing confusion. The Woodrow Wilson Center provided me time and resources to examine the facts about clean technology (“cleantech”) and China. This was timely. Government agencies, think tanks and trade associations hoping to influence the policy debate began in February 2009 to release a spate of lengthy and in-depth policy reports, many of them technical in nature. We will learn in Chapter One how and why that gusher of information—which has thrown up literally shelf-feet of reports over the past year and a half— suddenly arose. However, for the purposes of this Introduction, it is simply worth noting that these policy tomes, for all that they did serve to provide data-based context to what had previously been “context-free” highly combustible reporting, did not offer much help to an interested non-specialist in making better sense of the main issues. At this “informed” end of the information spectrum, there was now almost too much information spread across too many specialized viewpoints. For a busy entrepreneur, investment manager, business professional, state or local government official, regional economic development analyst, scientific researcher, or engaged student—in fact, for any concerned “global citizen” wanting to understand the issues in a straightforward and streamlined way— it was famine or feast. A super-abundance of highly-specialized information provides not much more help in gaining an efficient grasp of the core issues than scattershot newspaper and media reporting had offered. Sustaining U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation 3 This book aims squarely at the “middle ground” of curiosity and interest in this broad topic. At the outset, I would like to be clear about three “operating assumptions” I have built in: Timeframe The three main chapters are concerned with the three-year period from mid-2008 to mid-2011. Except for one digression involving Five Year Plans which covers a 30-year period, this limitation on perspective actually helps bring the main subject matter into better focus. The bulk of the U.S. political effort to engage with China in the clean energy arena took shape during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and was further framed through policy initiatives of the Obama administration. For a new industrial ecosystem like “cleantech” or clean energy, what is relevant is defined by what has most recently happened. It is only in the Conclusion that the time-frame is pulled back to show that some of the dynamics described in preceding chapters are, in fact, related to deeper and more long-standing trends in the overall U.S.-China relationship. Structure As author, I have insisted on an organizational principle for presenting information which puts me at odds with the conventional approach of “Beltway” experts. In Washington, the tendency is to run all relevant information through what I will call the “policy blender” and to present the resulting product as a mix of policy recommendation, policy analysis, and policy refutation. I take a different approach. I believe that the policy process is best served when the three main aspects of business-relevant policy are broken down and viewed separately in their own right. These are: (a) the politics underlying the policy process; (b) the technology innovations which policy initiatives aim to support; and (c) the investment ultimately required to take any technology innovation to scale in the marketplace, thereby driving policy on a long-term and sustainable basis. Rather than jumble these perspectives, I treat them in Merritt t. Cooke 4 separate chapters and try to adopt the relevant “mind-set” of each in presenting material in the respective chapter. This may be nothing more than a reflection of my former training as a cultural anthropologist, but I believe it is useful—within the complex arena of China, the United States, and energy—in revealing underlying dynamics. For this reason, in the U.S. section of the opening chapter on Politics, I will rely heavily on the words of key political actors. Ours is a system where the president needs to persuade the electorate and what is said matters. In the section on Chinese Politics, the approach is different, relying instead on “structural analysis” of the ruling party and its interests. In each case, the attempt is to adopt a perspective particularly suited to its subject matter. Purpose The Woodrow Wilson Center’s motto is “knowledge in the public service.” Woodrow Wilson epitomized the ideal of the “practitioner scholar”—the part-time scholar who devotes some of his or her career to bringing scholarly research into the practical, socially-relevant domains of government or business or non-profit work. This is the spirit with which I have written this book. I am neither a career academic nor a professional policymaker. I have tried to make this book clear and concise, although it involves a complex, and fast-changing topic. Especially for technically inclined readers, I want to acknowledge that no sector domain in the U.S.-China clean energy field can be adequately reduced to a couple of pages. I believe this topic is an important one. If the United States and China find a way to realistically base and sustain their cooperation in clean energy, they will be addressing directly 40 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. And if together they manage to create a replicable model of cooperation, they can indirectly help the world address the remaining 60 percent. At its core, this topic touches everyone—those who care deeply about America’s place in the world, those who are moved by China’s epochal reemergence, those who are environmentally-engaged, and those who are responsible global citizens. Students are a particularly important audience because the tectonic issue described in this book will ultimately be the felt experience of their generation. In short, I hope that this book may be found to present important issues in a balanced way and to offer something useful and readily comprehensible to anyone with enough interest to pick it up.

View the Wilson Center’s Book Launch Event here

The following post comes courtesy of Sinosphere, the China blog for The New York Times.  Like a flower poking out of the cracked pavement of a concrete jungle, this is another hopeful sign that ‘The Greening of Asia” is starting to blossom.

Q & A with Author Mark Clifford on “The Greening of Asia”

By Ian Johnson from Sinosphere, May 5, 2015 3:21am

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 1

A technician at Yingli Solar checks a solar panel on a production line at the company’s headquarters in Baoding, Hebei Province. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

After 20 years in Asia as a journalist, Mark Clifford took over as executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council in 2007. His new book, “The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency,” explores how Asian companies are making strides in providing environmental solutions. China is a special focus because of the country’s huge emissions of carbon, but also because of its potential for innovation.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 2

Mark Clifford.Credit Courtesy of Mark Clifford

In an interview, Mr. Clifford discussed the need to link businesses, governments and nongovernmental organizations to fight climate change:

Q.:   How did you get interested in this topic?

A:     I joined the Council in 2007 and inherited an almost-finished study on green buildings. That was pretty exotic in Asia back then, and we published a book on it. It got me thinking about the topic.

Q:    Your angle is a bit more hopeful than some. Tell us how that came to be.

A:     Originally, I thought I’d do a book along the lines of “The East Is Black.” And we do have an emergency here. In China, 1.2 million a year are dying prematurely. People need to know how bad it is, but then I got to thinking that this was pretty obvious. Instead, I thought that there are these much more positive responses underway, and people should know about them. The business community, which takes challenges and solves problems, was involved. So it is unabashedly a glass-half-full book, but that’s because it’s important to know there’s a way out. We can despair, we can do nothing, or we can work to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 3

Q;   Do you see business being the main player in solving the issue?

A:    No, it’s part of the solution. There has to be a three-legged stool of government, civil society and business, and each has to bring its strengths to the table.  Only governments have the power to set rules — the laws and regulations, of course, but also the prices in the forms of taxes and subsidies as well as facilitating infrastructure developments. Media and NGOs make sure that business and government are doing what they promise.

Q:    What was most surprising is how many companies are doing this in one form or another.

A:     Yes, in the book I profile more than a dozen companies at length but also have an appendix of more than 50 companies that are involved with a variety of environmental initiatives. It was surprising to me what’s going on at the corporate level, but they’re doing things for good business reasons. Some are for the P.R. effect, but most look at it as necessary for survival.

Q:    You focused one chapter on Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings, the electric power company.

A:    Their work really sparked this project. In 2007, the then-chief executive, Andrew Brandler, announced that by mid-century, they would cut the carbon intensity of their electricity production by 75 percent. This pledge by one of Asia’s biggest private utilities — mostly coal-fired power plants — to effectively decarbonize by mid-century is unparalleled globally. I think this stems from the Kadoorie family, which owns a major stake in CLP. Michael Kadoorie challenges his top management to look at 50-year horizons. They do this for good reasons. They’re traditionally a coal-burning utility, but they think that this isn’t a good business model in 50 years.

Other companies think that water is underpriced, and in the future, it will be more realistically priced. Carbon also is underpriced, and other companies want to be ready for when it’s changed.  But not all companies have long-term visions.To reach them, you need the other two legs of the stool. You need good, strong government policy, and you need NGOs to hold people accountable.

Q:    What countries have had good policies?

A:    Singapore has done an exemplary job. They decided very early on that water is of existential threat to the nation. So they have taken very firm policies, and it gives companies a form of certainty about costs.Not every country has the capacity that Singapore’s administration has, and it’s a small place with a forward-thinking government. It’s much harder in big countries like China and India, which are more fragmented.

Q:    You have a lot on China.

A:    The good news is we have good policies coming down from the top levels of the Chinese government. Where China continues to struggle is the implementation at the ground level. There’s not always enforcement, and there’s no civil society to act as a check. The time when China decides that the environment and energy issues are as much of a threat as the color revolutions were, or the Hong Kong protests were last year, that’s when we’ll know we have serious progress. We’ve seen with Chai Jing [whose popular documentary film on the environment, “Under the Dome,” was banned] that civil society is muted.

Q:    We read a lot about air pollution, but you also think that water is crucial.

A:     Increasingly, water is a hard-stop issue. Air pollution is horrible, but most people affected by it are still living. But no one can live without water. I don’t know what people will do when the water stops. In China, projects like the South-North Water Diversion Project just delay the day of reckoning. What concerns me is that even most otherwise far-sighted governments are not facing up to the challenges.  For example, what do you do if you’re a municipal official, and you have an industry, say semi-conductors, which uses a lot of water? What do you do when you have to make a choice: water for the factory or the town? These are the kinds of choices that aren’t going to happen today or tomorrow, but governments will face this.

Q:    And yet there are signs of hope in China.

A:    China is about to overtake Germany as having the largest amount of installed solar power capability. It also has large wind turbine facilities. All of this is important because China burns half the world’s coal and accounts for 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. So to fix China, we need to cut coal use. Coal is supposed to peak in 2030, but it could happen a lot faster. So these are huge challenges, but China is potentially further ahead than many people realize.

Following the historic U.S.-China joint announcements on climate change and clean energy presented by Presidents Obama and Xi last November, the global climate change picture continues to come into clearer focus.  In the foreground, the nations of the world are moving along the ‘road to Paris‘ and preparing their voluntary action plans for consideration by the world’s heads of state at the COP21 meeting in Paris this December.  In the background to this picture, China is now making clear the costs — and the expectations it has for extra-governmental support — in funding the programs to meet pollution targets in its own national climate change plan.

Here are the highlights:

  • Estimated funding need is $320 billion per year for the next five years
  • China’s budget currently is projected to cover only 15% of that five-year funding need
  • China will rely on global financial institutions and instruments to fund the 85% shortfall.  These sources include carbon trading, multilateral loans, bond issues, and special funds.

FT article 4-23-15

Here is the full text of today’s Financial Times article on this topic:

China spells out cost of meeting pollution targets

by Lucy Hornby in Beijing

Financial Times,  April 23, 2015

China needs Rmb2tn ($320bn) a year in investment over the next five years to meet targets on reducing pollution set by the ministry of the environment, according to the country’s central bank in a report on “green” finance.

The report, issued Wednesday, estimated that China’s budget covered only 15 per cent of the required investment, and called for carbon trading as well as financing tools such as loans, bonds and special funds for green projects.

Ma Jun, a former Deutsche Bank economist who is now chief research economist for the People’s Bank of China and author of the report, wrote: “It is crucial that the financial system play the role of channelling and incentivising private capital into the green sectors.”

Last week the ministry released a plan to address water pollution while detailed plans have already been released by provinces to meet air pollution goals set out in 2013.

China’s financing announcements as well as its five-year plans can be a mishmash of previously announced infrastructure projects and new pet schemes, making it hard to pin down how budgets have been allocated.

Some of the recommendations are under way. China plans to combine seven city-based carbon trading pilots into a national scheme next year.

Developers may get preferential bank loans if their projects meet national priorities, including a goal for renewable energy to make up about a fifth of China’s installed capacity by 2020. Projects already announced include the $150bn construction of dozens of nuclear power plants, and plans to build hydropower plants on the few stretches of Chinese rivers that are not yet dammed.

Some green financing schemes have potential for abuse. For example, property developers can avoid lending restrictions by labelling their buildings “green” or “energy efficient”. Both concepts tend to be loosely defined.

Some of China’s goals are modest by developed-country standards, such as making 93 per cent of water supplied to cities “suitable for drinking” by 2020. Nonetheless, the targets require billions to be spent on water and sewage treatment alongside industrial upgrades.

Tim's graphic w captions & attrib (hi-res)

Hard to believe? Here’s the data behind it. Three cheers for water!

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