China Plays Newsom on Climate Accord

China Plays Newsom on Climate Accord

Delegates from California and China's Hainan Province sign an international climate agreement in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 3, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 8/17/2023

On Aug. 3, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a fake climate accord with the province of Hainan in Communist China. His website enthused, “Today, California announced a new initiative with the Chinese province of Hainan in the global fight against climate change.
“The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today outlines five areas of cooperation between California and Hainan: cutting air pollution, developing and implementing climate adaptation and carbon neutrality plans, advancing clean energy, accelerating zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and driving nature-based solutions.”
Cheered Politico on Aug. 14, “The most effective U.S. negotiator on international climate cooperation right now isn’t in Washington. It’s California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose new pacts with China and other major polluters are cementing the Golden State’s role as a climate policy power broker. ...
“Enter the world’s fifth-largest economy, which has long been using its firm political consensus on climate change as a platform to broker international agreements with foreign allies and adversaries alike. California’s role as a de facto shadow government on climate diplomacy is only becoming more important as geopolitical tensions rise and Congress remains riven over China’s role in the green transition, officials say.”
But when you actually read the MOU, here’s what it says: “SECTION V. No Legal Obligations, Rights, or Remedies. This Memorandum of Understanding is a voluntary initiative. It does not create any legally binding rights or obligations and creates no legally cognizable or enforceable rights or remedies, legal or equitable, in any forum whatsoever. ... and each Participant is free to withdraw from the Memorandum.”
That is, it’s toothless. It’s just a way for Newsom to advance his position among Americans, especially those in the liberal media and the Democratic Party, over-worried about “climate change.” It makes him look presidential ahead of an expected run in 2024 or 2028 for the White House.
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Here are two aspirational sections at the beginning of the MOU, “WHEREAS Hainan is committed to improving air quality and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, peak carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060;
“WHEREAS California has committed to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% by 2045, achieve 60% renewable electricity and double energy efficiency savings in electricity and natural gas end-uses by 2030, 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045, 100% zero-emission new light duty vehicle sales by 2035, and carbon neutrality by 2045. ...
“Therefore, the Participants have reached the following understanding ...”
Notice how California’s commitments are specific percentages. But for Hainan, the commitments are either vague—“committed to improving air quality ... reduce emissions ... peak carbon emissions ... achieve carbon neutrality”; or unrealistic—“ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.” I know little about Communist Chinese law, except that dictates from Beijing can change it at a whim. But couldn’t new gas-powered cars be shipped to Hainan from other provinces?
According to Wikipedia, Hainan is a large island province off China’s coast, population 10 million, compared to California’s 39 million. GDP in 2021 was $100 billion, compared to California’s $3.6 trillion in 2022. Thus, California’s economy was 36 times larger.
“Hainan’s economy is predominantly agricultural, and more than a half of the island’s exports are agricultural products. Hainan’s elevation to province-level status (1988), however, was accompanied by its designation as China’s largest ‘special economic zone,’ the intent being to hasten the development of the island’s plentiful resources. Prior to this, the province had a reputation for being a ‘Wild West’ area, largely untouched by industrialization; even today there are relatively few factories in the province. ...
Automotive manufacturing is one of eight industrial pillar industries. Hainan’s automotive output was 39,600 in 2017, down by 41.1 percent over the previous year.” By contrast, Tesla’s Fremont factory alone produces up to 650,000 per year, or 16 times as many.
Tesla Superchargers in San Rafael, Calif., on Feb. 15, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tesla Superchargers in San Rafael, Calif., on Feb. 15, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The reality is California operates under the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8 grants Congress, and only Congress, the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” And Section 10 reads, “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation,” etc.
Here’s what the MOU says in Section IX: Final Provisions: “This Memorandum of Understanding is effective from the date of its signature for a four-year period. ... Any of the Participants may, at any time, withdraw from this Memorandum of Understanding by providing a written notice to the other Participant(s).”
All this is in the context of what I have written about several times in the Epoch Times: China continues to build hundreds of new coal plants every year, spewing out CO2 at a record rate. On June 22, I wrote, “California Is Cooperating in China’s Eco-Scams.” And on May 11, “California ‘Carbon Neutrality’ Won’t Reduce Global Temperatures.” With its economy faltering, the Chinese Communist Party is unlikely to change course and adopt California-style draconian attacks on its industries.
Hainan is an agricultural and tourist island, more like Hawaii than California. Newsom’s agreement with it will have zero impact on anything except his political career.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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