California Gov. Brown Goes To China To Build Support For Clean Car Policies

California Governor Jerry Brown is flying today to China to convince officials to support strict vehicle emissions rules – and to ignore President Donald Trump’s Paris climate accord decision.

Brown had previously scheduled the trip and had assumed Trump would be opposing the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. The California governor has two years left in his fourth term as governor, and hopes to continue his legacy fighting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – with China being a partner in his campaign.

“There’s so much propaganda and outright climate denial in Washington,” Brown said in an interview last week with Bloomberg. The trip to China is a way “to forge agreements that will counteract the misguided Republican efforts in Washington.”

Brown is encouraging China to adopt a national policy similar to California’s zero emission vehicle mandate for automakers to hit targets on selling battery-powered and fuel cell vehicles. China has been examining a similar ZEV policy since last year, but has faced a backlash over a suggested policy that 8 percent of new vehicles sold next year meet the ZEV standard, called “new energy vehicles” in China.

China has agreed to back off the 8 percent ZEV sales by 2018 rule, and will soon be adopting an alternative national policy, according to a Reuters report.

It’s unlikely the government will back away entirely as China has become the world’s largest market for plug-in electrified vehicles – and several automakers have announced plans to sell high volumes of new energy vehicles in that market.

Chinese maker BYD has taken a leading role in China’s electric vehicle market, with the high-selling all-electric BYD e6 being used in several taxi fleets.

The California governor has also been critical of the Trump administration blocking President Obama’s approval of the 2022-2025 phase in the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy and emissions rules. He would also like to see the Obama administration’s decision remain intact to allow California to follow its own ZEV policies that are tougher than federal standards.

Brown has been clear that California will fight the Trump administration if California’s clean car rules are undermined – and automakers if they continue lobbying in Washington to soften standards.

In the Bloomberg interview, Brown said he has watched automakers taking that approach ever since General Motors claimed in 1973 it would go bankrupt if California forced the installation of catalytic converts on all vehicles sold in the state.

“The leopard is not going to change its spots,’’ Brown said. “We have to remain vigilant.’’

China may be in a position to take the global lead in vehicle emissions reductions and other cleantech initiatives now that the U.S. has sidestepped that role.

“China has been working very hard to try and replace the U.S. as the world leader in a number of areas,’’ said Yunshi Wang, director of the China Center for Energy and Transportation.

Trump’s abandonment of the Paris accord, Wang said, “is obviously a big opportunity from the Chinese perspective.”

China had been considering following guidelines similar to California’s ZEV structure with a mandated target to be met, and the option of buying credits for automakers who don’t hit the mark. The government has also been in talks with California officials about adopting a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, which offers a way for polluting industries to comply with government mandates.

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols is scheduled to join Brown on the weeklong trip.

Going the ZEV route would also fit into the Chinese government’s goal of reducing oil imports and strengthening national security, Wang said.

Chinese automakers see building ZEVs providing an opportunity to export large numbers of cars and trucks.

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As for the U.S. policy, General Motors and Ford issued separate statements that the Trump decision may do little to modify their plans for current and future electric vehicles.

Brown will find support for his opposition to yesterday’s announcement by Trump to leave the Paris accord.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stepped down from Trump’s economic advisory, and a group of U.S. mayors, governors, universities, and corporate executives have issued statements supporting the Paris climate change agreement.

“Climate change could be a unifying issue that pulls the Democratic Party together if the 2018 midterm elections become a referendum on Trump,’’ said Alan Baum, an auto analyst in Bloomfield Township, Mich.

Bloomberg


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