Calif. governor travels to China to spur more investment in renewable energy

Calif. governor in China
Calif. governor in China 01:56

BEIJING -- When President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord last week, California Governor Jerry Brown saw an opportunity to go green -- in China.

"This is serious stuff," Brown said, while in Beijing. "This is not a game, this is not appealing to your political base. This is dealing with the existential threats to humanity." 

Brown may now have more in common with the Chinese government than he does with the U.S. government. In a setting normally reserved for visiting heads of state, Brown met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is now viewed as the world's leader on climate change. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing CBS News

"China is the world's biggest polluter. Do you trust them to lead the world on this issue?" CBS News asked Brown.  

Gov. Jerry Brown CBS News

"Well, they're taking the climate threat serious, so I say all to the good, and California will collaborate. I just hope that Washington comes on board sooner rather than later," Brown said.

Brown isn't waiting. He went to Beijing to spur more Chinese investment in renewable energy such as solar panels and wind turbines, which will help California achieve its own ambitious clean energy goals. 

Pollution from coal mines often shrouds China's cities in toxic fog. But China is investing more than $360 billion to convert to cleaner forms of energy. 

It's a stark contrast to the Trump White House, which has promised to open new coal mines.

"If you try to prop up dying coal mines or technology that belches toxins out the tailpipe then you're going to lose, and it's time we start winning," Brown said.

In his rationale for pulling out of the Paris climate accord, Mr. Trump cited the loss of American jobs. But the Chinese think their clean energy initiatives will actually create 13 million new jobs in China in the next few years alone.

  • Ben Tracy
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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.