Officials from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Shanxi province in northern China visited Jackson this week to speak with town and county leaders about sustainable energy practices and the possibility of developing a sister city relationship.
Like Wyoming in America, Shanxi province is the largest coal-producing province in China. It has been struggling to meet the country’s pledge to cap its carbon emissions by the year 2030.
“While considering that both our state and province are coal producers, we think there is great potential for cooperation between us,” Wu Shaozhong, deputy director of foreign affairs for Shanxi, said through his translator.
“Not only do we want to be a sister province with Wyoming,” he said, “we also want one or two of our cities to be a sister city with Jackson.”
Monday’s meeting was organized by the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs, which has worked closely with the Shanxi province in the past on its U.S.-China Clean Coal Initiative. The program works to open lines of communication about clean energy technology between the various layers of local and regional governments.
In attendance were Jackson Mayor Sara Flitner, Vice Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson and County Commissioners Paul Vogelheim and Mark Newcomb. Also there were Phil Cameron, the executive director of Energy Conservation Works, Olivia Meigs, the Center for Global Affair’s communication director, and David Wendt, president of the Center for Global Affairs, who helped facilitate the discussion and translate.
Following a brief explanation of Energy Conservation Works’ recent achievements in Jackson, Chinese officials named two possible cities that would make a fitting sister city for Jackson.
Xinzhou is located in the mountainous region of Shanxi. Wutai Shan, or “the place of the four peaks,” is a major tourist attraction in Xinzhou. In 2007 former Jackson Mayor Mark Barron signed an agreement linking Jackson and Wutai Shan for the promotion of tourism.
Jincheng is an industrial city in the southeastern corner of Shanxi. It’s known for its picturesque landscapes but also its badly polluted air. In recent years the city made concerted efforts to improve air quality and reduce its dependence on coal, its most abundant resource.
In 2009 the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs organized a delegation to visit Jincheng to discuss energy with industry leaders from around the world.
In addition to proposing sister cities the Chinese delegation invited town and county officials to attend a low-carbon forum scheduled for September in Shanxi.
“Our provincial government is committed to pursue the green development of coal resources and low-carbon development of all high-carbon resources,” said Shaozhong. “This forum is a great opportunity to learn from other cities and countries.
“It’s not only our goal,” he said, “but it should be the goal of all humankind.”
Despite the brief nature of the meeting, Wendt said all thought it was productive.
“I was very pleased,” he said. “I thought that we achieved a connection very effectively. Both communities are clearly ready for this. Hopefully we can have a few town and county officials join us in Shanxi in September.”