Happy Fourth of July to our American readers. As Thomas Friedman, renown New York Times columnist and cleantech convert, likes to say, “Green is the new Red, White and Blue.” US energy security and indeed economic development through the creation of green collar jobs depend on a thriving cleantech industry. In the international relations arena, cooperation on cleantech and environmental governance also offers an opportunity for the US to repair the goodwill that Bush has squandered over the last seven and a half years.
G8. All eyes are on the US as international climate talks amongst the major developed nations at the G8 Hokkaido Tokayo Summit are held next week. The US ranks dead last amongst the eight nations in terms of climate action according to a report recently released by the World Wildlife Federation and Allianz, the insurer. Hosts Japan is urging numerical emissions reduction targets be adopted and is seeking to be a role-model energy efficient economy. Though not an official member of G8, delegates of major developing countries such as China will be in attendance. China maintains its position that developed countries should lead the way on binding measures to reduce emissions, but says it is open to “discussing longer-term commitments, and Tokyo’s proposals for emissions goals for specific industries.”
Californication. But Americans are not waiting for the US federal government to act. Previously, I highlighted the efforts of JUCCCE. China Dialogue also recently ran an interesting piece highlighting the efforts of several Californian institutions taking the lead in collaborating with China on clean energy issues, including the China Energy Group (part of the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), University of California—Berkeley, the utility Pacific Gas and Electric, US-China Green Energy Council and Energy Foundation. Just last week, California announced its ambitious plan to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2020.
Crossing the Straits. Meanwhile, cross-straits relations reached a milestone with the first commercial flights in 60 years between China and Taiwan resuming today. In his short tenure at the helm so far, the new Taiwanese President, Ma Yin Jiou, has already brandished his environmental credentials. The Green Leap Forward hopes that the this new era of cross-straits relations will also mark a new avenue of clean energy and environmental cooperation. As a start, check out this zany but cool and high-tech idea of increasing efficiencies of mass transit using a “train that never stops,” courtesy of a Taiwanese inventor Peng Yu-lun (note expressions of audience towards end of video):
Plastic Bags. Finally, a look at how China’s plastic bag regulations, one month in, are faring. Comapre the upbeat review by Worldwatch with the more sobering and mixed observations of China Environmental Law. My personal experience in Beijing has been that free plastic bags are still being freely doled out by street vendors and markets, which makes me wonder, what percentage of Chinese consumers shops in supermarkets and department stores anyways? It will be interesting to see how enforcement of the regulations play out. Either way, the era of free/cheap petrochemical-laden plastic bags have to come to an end as oil prices march towards US$300. Planet Earth could certainly do without plastic soup.