USGBC: Reflections from the 2nd U.S.–China Climate Leaders Summit

By Mark Ginsberg for the USGBC website

The second U.S.–China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit was held in Beijing earlier this month. It follows last September’s Summit in Los Angeles and continues the high-level Climate Declaration between President Obama and President Xi. Dozens of mayors and subnational leaders from both countries attended, sharing success stories and practical examples with the estimated 2,000 people in attendance during plenaries, technical sessions and exhibits.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua re-affirmed their commitments to collaborate on finding solutions to achieve ambitious climate goals. (Read Secretary Kerry’s remarks.)

An opening ceremony featured welcoming addresses from Zhang Yong, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Ariz., spoke on behalf of the delegation of U.S. mayors in attendance. The summit featured four rounds of concurrent sessions, with two dozen breakout sessions featuring over 120 technical and policy presentations from Chinese and American government officials, companies and experts.

I had the honor of speaking at a session hosted by the City of Beijing and Tsinghua University on low-carbon subdistricts. The session focused on the Tongzhou District in the eastern part of Beijing, which is being developed as a Near Zero Emissions Demonstration District. Planners described ambitious goals in energy, transportation, waste and renewables, noting that they are using international standards including LEED. I also noted that LEED for neighborhood development (LEED ND) might be an ideal existing solution for some small districts. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Village is a key example—it was the first LEED ND Gold project in China and one of the first in the world. Other large-scale projects in Foshon and the Shanghai Expo provide great examples of sustainable city planning and development.

USGBC also joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, Rocky Mountain Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the China Association of Building Energy Efficiency to organize a green building session. During the panel, representatives from the cities of Urumqi, Weifang, New York, Chicago and Beijing presented updates on policies and projects in their municipalities. I also had the opportunity to join CABEE, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Institute and the Shenzhen Institute of Building Research with technical reports, and presented an update on LEED v4 in China.

Learn more about the steps the United States and China are taking together to build upon the Paris Agreement.