EPA's Gina McCarthy Cracks Down on Carbon Emissions in China

The top environmental cop heads to China to share lessons learned.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy addresses a breakfast event at the National Press Club on Sept. 20, 2013, in Washington.

EPA head Gina McCarthy pressed China on Monday to take action on pollution, which she said "is reaching our West Coast."

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The Obama administration is taking its carbon emission crusading to China, as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy heads overseas to work with her counterparts as part of a growing effort to reduce pollution globally.

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McCarthy, who has been on the job about four months, said Monday she hopes to use lessons learned in the United States as guidance for Chinese officials working on curbing their country's emissions.

"[The Ministry of Environmental Protection] in China knows they are facing significant air quality challenges," McCarthy said at an event at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington. "For 15 years we have been working with them [on this front]; action must happen and it must happen quickly in China."

The U.S. and China are the world's two largest economies, and they are also the largest energy consumers and largest emitters of carbon pollution, McCarthy said.

"We know that pollution is emanating from China and is reaching our West Coast," she said, adding that it took widespread public outcry in the 1950s to lead to public policy change in the United States, something China is beginning to face now.

China's carbon emissions are driven by the coal burning to support 1.3 billion citizens, as well as diesel fuel used by cars and the fact that China – unlike the U.S. – continues to be a significant producer of steel and other industrial products that require massive amounts of energy.

McCarthy also touched on U.S.-centered issues, brushing aside political pushback surrounding recent Obama administration announcements of cutting back carbon emissions domestically for new and existing power plants, given that China and other countries are lagging behind.

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"It's always been a question, but the music is playing and someone needs to take the first step," she said. "I think in a 2015 world, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases be at the table and I think it's important China is with us."

McCarthy also called on investment in pipeline infrastructure, as a part of the United States' transition from fossil fuel to renewable resources.

"The actions you take to address climate can be important opportunities for local economies; it needs to be invested in from the private and public sectors," she said. "We're going to be shouting all over the place about climate resilience … the transition is going to be a long one. My job … is to get at pollution."

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