UC Berkeley, Jerry Brown launch new pan-Pacific climate institute

September 23, 2019
By: Kara Manke
Jerry Brown
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. closes the Global Climate Action Summit in Sept. 2018. (Photo courtesy the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.)

UC Berkeley, in partnership with former California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and China’s top climate change official, Xie Zhenhua, today (Monday, Sept. 23) announced the launch of a new campus institute to bring together top researchers and policymakers from both sides of the Pacific to stop the rise of greenhouse gases.

The new California-China Climate Institute will be jointly hosted by Berkeley Law and the College of Natural Resources. Berkeley experts will work closely with colleagues at the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at China’s public Tsinghua University, as well as with various government organizations in both China and California.

“My goal is to further the collaboration that California has had with China,” said Brown, who will serve as chair of the institute and was appointed a visiting Berkeley professor in July. “Stabilizing the climate is in the interest of the world and certainly in the interest of China and the U.S., so the fact that we have all these other issues between us just makes it all the more important that we work together on this one area of joint concern — dealing with climate change.”

The institute will draw from Berkeley’s expertise in sustainability research and policy to advance a wide variety of climate solutions — from low-carbon transportation and zero emission vehicles to carbon capture and storage. It will achieve these goals through joint research, training programs and political dialogue between academics and policymakers in California and China.

“The deep motivation of California academics and politicians is that, if we can take action that either lowers the cost of technology or paves the way to climate solutions, the rest of the country and the rest of the world may follow,” said David Ackerly, dean of the College of Natural Resources. “We innovate and we lead, and the reasons we do these things are because we really believe that we can have a global impact.”

Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s longtime leadership in climate research and their history of working with the state of California to advance sustainable policies — from energy efficiency standards to the cap and trade system — make Berkeley uniquely suited to host the new initiative, said Maximilian Auffhammer, the George Pardee Professor of International Sustainable Development at Berkeley.

Brown and Xi Jinping
Brown, left, me with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in June 2017. (Courtesy Office of Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.)

“What we’ve got here is a partnership between two of the best public universities in the world, Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley, working together with what I would argue are two of the most important regulatory bodies on climate in the world, which are the government of California and the Chinese government,” said Auffhammer, who serves as Academic Advisory Board Member for the institute. “Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, UC Berkeley and the state have been a hotbed of policy and technological innovation in (climate solutions) for many decades. I think we have the right players at the right time, asking the right questions.”

Brown committed to establishing the institute after meeting at Tsinghau University in 2017 with Xie Zhenhua and more than two dozen Californian and Chinese policymakers, researchers and business leaders.

The institute will build upon the collaborative policy work Brown began during his tenure as California governor, which included working with China to devise California’s cap and trade program and fostering close relationships between Chinese nationals and the California Air Resources Board in formulating air quality standards.

“We also need researchers, we need people who can inquire longer term into some of the roadblocks that are holding us back, whether it is in electric cars, batteries, urban design or industrial design,” Brown said. “I believe that solid academics at Tsinghua and Berkeley can, by working together and with the governments of China and California, do very important work.”

“We will do what we can, because China can push America, and California can push China,” Brown said.