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Chinese climate officials let loose on President Trump as Jerry Brown concludes visit

Gov. Jerry Brown meets with Beijing Mayor Chen Jining, former environmental protection minister, on his last day in Beijing. (Jessica Meyers / For The Times)
Gov. Jerry Brown meets with Beijing Mayor Chen Jining, former environmental protection minister, on his last day in Beijing. (Jessica Meyers / For The Times)

Chinese officials had been avoiding attacks on President Trump for pulling the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, opting instead for oblique references to “global cooperation.”

Not anymore.

Chinese climate change experts on Thursday offered some of their most definitive rebuffs to Trump’s actions, pointedly turning to Gov. Jerry Brown -- and California -- as a substitute partner.  

“Your visit will send a very positive signal to those people who did not believe in the efforts for climate change,” Zhou Dadi, former director of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development Reform Commission, told Brown at a “high level dialogue” at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Brown sat at the head of a horseshoe conference table with about 30 Chinese and U.S. experts. The governor, who attended the Paris deal, also concluded that trip with a university stop.

This time, it sounded more woeful. 

“I still have vivid memories” of the day U.S. and Chinese officials concluded the Paris accord, said Xie Zhenhua, the lead Chinese negotiator there, describing a moment when people cried with joy and relief. “I am so deeply disappointed at the announcement of President Trump.”

Brown also spoke broadly about Trump’s actions during much of the five-day trip, which included stops in the southern cities of Chengdu and Nanjing. 

But hours before he boarded a plane back to California, the governor sounded more pointed.

“When we have a world where the president of the most powerful country says climate change is not only a hoax but a Chinese hoax, you know we're in big trouble.",” he said to laughter.

Brown spoke to the group and then took interviews around the time Secretary of Energy Rick Perry met with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli at Zhongnanhai, China’s equivalent of the White House. Both Perry and Brown attended a conference this week of global energy ministers, but the California governor has received far more media attention.

Brown was the one who attended the announcement of a U.S.-China Climate Change Institute, with Brown and Tsinghua leaders unveiling a blue banner with a thick yellow ribbon.

“I didn’t study science, I studied Latin and Greek, and that’s not going to help,” Brown told the group. “I’m just here to ring the bell, wake people up and get on with this major, major change for humanity.”

While no one discussed details of the partnership, the symbolism was significant.

“I’m really keen to see the stronger cooperation between China and the U.S.,” Xie said, looking at the California delegation.

Brown was in a lighthearted mood earlier that day, when he met with the new mayor of Beijing, a former environmental protection minister.

He joked with sleep-deprived reporters and prepared to return to Sacramento, where he would try to earn the votes for an extension of the state’s cap and trade program -- a return to the domestic battle over climate change.

 

June 10, 2017: This post was updated to correct the quote about climate change being a hoax, which was missing some words. 

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