2009 may be shaping up to be the Year of Solar. No, really.
Although the Chinese solar manufacturing industry has been in a world of hurt for the past half year, things may be starting to turn around. Since the announcement of the first solar concession, the national Solar Roofs Program and Jiangsu province’s possible solar incentives (see previous posts here and here), a flurry of news feeds on various solar projects have come through my inbox. Here’s a list of relevant solar tidbits, taken mostly from JLM Pacific Epoch, which does a terrific job of scanning and collating Chinese-language news feeds across the country across various industrial sectors, including solar :
- More details on the Solar Roofs Program have emerged. Applications will be accepted until May 15 for the initial round of subsidies: RMB 20/watt for construction material- and component-based BIPV projects, and RMB 15/watt for rooftop- and wall-based projects. Eligible projects must begin construction in 2009 and finish within two years; have completed contracts with solar product manufacturers; detail on-grid connective procedures and establish monitoring and long-distance help systems for capacity, electricity and environmental data.
- As a follow-up to the announcement of Jiangsu’s much anticipated solar subsidies, it is learned that the “California of China” has set goals to achieve building and rooftop installations of 10MW in 2009; 50MW including 40MW of rooftop projects in 2010; and 200MW including 180MW of rooftop projects in 2011. Read the full story
When it comes to describing China’s energy and environmental situation, there is a need for journalists, critics and observers to keep the big picture in mind and appreciate the contradictory and schizophrenic nature of Chinese policy making. Environmental impact assessments have been skirted, but a renewable energy stimulus package is on the cards.
A recent piece in the New York Times suggests that the economic slowdown is causing planners to favor of revenue-generating infrastructure and heavy industry projects that inevitably undercut environmental efforts that have been gaining momentum until recently. The story’s position hinges largely on the recently adopted “green passage” policy that speeds up the approval of industrial projects in light of the urgent economic needs of the country. Yes, folks, as CELB notes, that’s “green” for green light, not necessarily eco green. The NYT articles explains:
The Ministry of Environmental Protection, citing the urgency of fighting the downturn, adopted a new “green passage” policy that speeds approval of industrial projects. In one three-day stretch late last year, it gave the green light to 93 new investment plans valued at $38 billion.
Provincial environmental agencies quickly followed suit, cutting the allotted time limit to review environmental impact assessments from the maximum 60 days to as few as five days in one province. Here in Hebei, the parched dust-bowl province that surrounds Beijing, officials announced approval of four new cement plants in a single day in January.
This is an unfortunate development. As one observer says, Read the full story
Coming to terms with my inner wonk.
Its just another day here at GLF, but apparently, the cat is out of the bag. First, thanks for the kind words, Charlie. I have a couple more lengthy (aren’t they always?) posts up my sleeve before the going gets a little busier, but I want to assure everyone that this blog will very much continue to hop along despite my move. So subscribe to our RSS feeds, new visitors!
For all its great efforts, it is clear that China can’t save the world alone. International collaboration will be key and the U.S., with its new progressive leadership, can be a great green ally. The Obama administration has signalled a new dawn of US-China diplomacy, and a recent speech in Beijing by John Podesta of the Center of American Progress (my imminent destination) highlights the optimism and opportunities on the energy front. GLF hopes to contribute to the discussion on how we can hasten the bridge-building process across the two nations.
Happy Earth Day!
Yesterday’s China Daily, featured an opinion editorial entitled “Tough climate policy would benefit China” that I co-wrote with China Greenspace‘s Scott Moore. This op-ed should been read together with GLF’s previous post “Thinking Out of the Climate Box: Rethinking Monolithic Approaches to the ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’ Impasse.” The basic message of the op-ed is that China should embark on aggressive climate action (i.e. move towards economy-wide caps on carbon emissions), not only because it should, as a responsible member of the global community, but because (1) its very survival depends on it, (2) there are numerous economic co-benefits to climate mitigation, and (3) it provides an opportunistic platform to enhance international relations through international energy collaboration.
For readers who are visiting this website because of the China Daily op-ed, welcome! The Green Leap Forward is a blog about China’s energy and environmental issues, focusing mostly on energy, climate, water and sometimes agro-food issues. See the right panel for a newly-assembled sampling of 2008′s top blog posts. If you are based in Beijing, or just want to get connected to the energy and environmental community in Beijing, join the Beijing Energy Network.
Some editorial mistakes oversights: The China Daily editorial team, unfortunately, did not incorporate some changes (in bold) that we requested to our text:
- 6th para: “A national climate change policy should also express China’s willingness, in time, to commit to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, focusing initially on specific industrial sectors or geographical regions and, eventually, on economy-wide “caps” on total emissions.” [GLF note: this added text is an allusion to Hu Angang's proposal outlined in our previous post]
- 10th para: “A study by CERNA, for example, shows that industrialized countries that committed themselves to mandatory emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol experienced increased levels of innovation in green technologies over those that did not.” [GLF note: the CERNA study can be accessed here, and was also referenced in our previous post]
Here’s the full op-ed:
Tough climate change policy would benefit China
By Scott Moore and Julian Wong
4/13/2009, China Daily, p. 3
The year 2009 may well be remembered as the Year of Climate Cooperation. Shortly after the New Year, the inauguration of Barack Obama heralded a new effort to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions, and to place special emphasis on working with China on climate issues. In a few more months, the world’s nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to try to forge a global agreement to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The tide of history is shifting towards a belated but crucial effort to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. China has a uniquely important opportunity to help shape this momentous new chapter in history, one that can be grasped by taking a new look at its national policy on climate change.
The Chinese government’s 2008 “White Paper on China’s Policies and Actions on Climate Change,” together with the 2007 National Climate Change Program, outlines substantial efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. China has an opportunity to build on this effort by formulating a visionary policy that will enhance its national security, promote sustainable economic development and position it as a full partner in one of the most important global efforts of our era.
A visionary national climate change policy should be forward-thinking – too much time has been wasted in debates over the carbon that is “embedded” in China’s exports and the responsibility of developed nations for the majority of historical global emissions.
These arguments are not wholly without merit but miss the point at a time when all nations, including China, must act quickly to build energy-efficient, low-carbon economies or risk runaway climate change.
A national climate change policy should also express China’s willingness, in time, to commit to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, focusing initially on specific industrial sectors and, eventually, on economy-wide “caps” on total emissions. This step is necessary since battling climate change requires the decrease of absolute emissions of each nation, as opposed to merely decreasing energy consumption per unit of GDP, which is China’s current policy.
The policy should use a mixture of incentives and mandates, to place China on the road to an energy transformation, away from conventional fossil-fuel power generation and towards the use of renewable energy sources and energy conservation measures.
China will benefit from a bold and visionary climate policy in several areas including enhanced security since the country will be in an increasingly precarious position as a result of changing climate, particularly in terms of water availability.
Most of the major river systems that feed and water China, India, and Southeast Asia depend on meltwater from the Himalayan region. Climate change is endangering this vital source of water for 60 percent of the human population. Himalayan glaciers, which provide some 70 percent of the flow of major Asian rivers, are melting at an extremely rapid rate; one study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, predicts that the Himalayan-Hindu Kush region will start to “run out of water” during the dry season. Besides disrupting agricultural activities and destabilizing massive and volatile populations, such a situation would imperil China’s economic growth.
Additionally, the aggressive pursuit of a truly low carbon economy can help establish an era of unparalleled innovation and economic prosperity. A study by CERNA, for example, shows that countries that committed themselves to mandatory emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol experienced increased levels of innovation in green technologies over those that did not.
The depth and diversity of these economic development opportunities are enormous; China can create millions of urban, high-tech jobs in the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of renewable power systems. It can also revive rural economies through the development of sustainable agriculture practices. In all regions, huge amounts of money can be saved as citizens breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water, reducing the incidence of some diseases.
Action on climate change is also an important sign of membership in the international community. Climate change has emerged as a global issue of paramount importance and by demonstrating that it is prepared to act boldly to combat climate change , China can help to reinforce its image as a responsible nation. Two Hunan University professors wrote in a recent China Daily editorial that “developing a low-carbon economic is a must as China continues to industrialize, not only for the nation’s energy security but also as part of an urgent international responsibility to address global climate change.”
By embracing this responsibility, China can gain recognition as a full partner in one of the most important global efforts in human history, while also ensuring it has a seat at the table as a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is forged.
The fundamental value in a bold, visionary national climate policy is that it builds the foundation for a sustainable future. China stands to gain a great deal from becoming a leader in green technologies, a resource-efficient economy, and a largely self-sufficient energy consumer. China’s current policy on climate change is significant and a step in the right direction, but hopefully it represents merely a rough draft of a strategy equal to the challenge of climate change.
Scott Moore is a Fulbright Fellow with the Environmental Economics and Policy Study Group at Peking University. Julian Wong is an independent energy analyst, founder of the Beijing Energy Network, and author of the blog GreenLeapForward.com. The views expressed in the article are their own
Thinking Out of the Climate Box: Re-Examining Monolithic Approaches to the "Common But Differentiated Responsibilities" Impasse
As international climate talks conclude today in Bonn, Germany, the time is right for another climate change policy edition of The Green Leap Forward. Today, we explore emerging new frameworks that might just get China on the path to enacting tangible emissions reductions.
All eyes are now on the U.S. (with new leadership), and as always, China. Climate change policy in the two biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting countries (on an annual basis) is heating up. Earlier this year, we witnessed a few zesty exchanges between US and China delegations as the latter continues its unswerving resistance to any possibility of binding emissions caps, peddling its “common but differentiated responsibilities” (hereinafter “CBDR”) refrain.
CBDR has been the linchpin argument of China’s negotiation position in the international climate change policy arena (see previous post ). CBDR is grounded in a concern for social equity, best explained in terms of examining (1) who are historically culpable for GHG emissions while giving consideration to (2) per capita emissions and (3) the relative economic development status of each country. The typical Beijing position would amount to something like the following:
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) should be calculated on a per capita basis from 1900 to ensure fair play as nations strive to halve global emissions by 2050…developed countries, which are home to just 20 percent of the world’s population, have contributed 75 percent of all global GHGs emissions since the Industrial Revolution, according to the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions should be calculated on a per capita basis for each country, so that every nation can shoulder a common but differentiated responsibility for climate change…Such a calculation “better reflects the principal of equity for developing countries”…
Editor’s Note: This edition of Green Hops contains an inexplicably frequent number of references to Guangzhou and Guangdong. We wonder why that might be…
Water issues continue to dominate China’s environmental agenda thanks to the recent World Water Forum in Turkey. The forum ended pathetically, failing to recognize water as a basic human right. But in more positive news, Guangzhou (capital city of southeastern Guangdong province) received the “Compromiso Mexico” water prize, which rewards “the best local public policies that have had a positive impact on the drinking water, sewerage and sanitation services in the communities they interact with.” According to Xinhua:
Since 1997, the government launched a number of water initiatives, which greatly improved the once heavily polluted inlets of the city’s Pearl River. The government is expected to allocate 48.6 billion yuan (some 7.11 billion U.S. dollars) for water management in 2009 and 2010, which accounts for one third of its financial budget.
A look at Jiangsu Province’s newly reported solar incentives and further reflections on the national Solar Roof Program.
Fast on the heels of the new national solar subsidies (Solar Roof Program) announced last week by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (see previous post), a report (Chinese only) yesterday says that Jiangsu province will be enacting aggressive provincial solar incentives to target 260 MW of installed solar capacity and 30,000 tons of annual polysilicon production by the end 2011. Not much details on how exactly these incentives will be rolled out, but a March 30 Bank of America report that landed on GLF’s desk suggest that this may actually take the form of a feed-in-tariff.
According to the B of A report: Read the full story