A guest post by Lucia Green-Weiskel (pictured right) who describes a groundbreaking initiative in Guangdong to set up a greenhouse gas registry.
For the last 20 years there has been a global effort to quantify and more accurately understand greenhouse gas emissions. China and the United States – which together are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s emissions – have been latecomers to the mostly European-initiated efforts to quantify, standardize, manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.
But that is beginning to change as the Chinese government is making clear its own brand of energy-saving strategies. For instance, China’s energy-efficiency targets are one of the most ambitious and environmentally progressive policies in the world. However, to meet those targets, China will need to develop a system to quantify energy use. To the extent that China decides to take action on climate change more directly, it will also have to track greenhouse-gas emissions. If such monitoring system is to be accepted by the international community as a bona fide action in the context of international climate negotiations, it must be transparent, accurate and reliable, in line with international standards and accompanied by a system of third-party verification. An online carbon and energy registry will support China’s drive to meet its own energy targets, facilitate bilateral cooperation between China and the US on climate change and support China’s participation in international agreements on carbon reduction. But questions remain about how to implement such a tool, who should administer it and the methodology to use.
Creating a Registry
In response to this need the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET) has developed the Energy and Carbon Registry, the first ever, public, government-supported, online registry for carbon emissions and energy consumption reporting system in China. The ECR is a Read the full story
Last month, I reviewed the Tyndall Center report on China’s Energy Transition: Pathways for Low Carbon Development and expressed three specific concerns. Since then, I’ve had an opportunity to exchange emails with Dr. Wang Tao (pictured right), one of the co-authors of the report. He has taken time to address my questions and has graciously agreed to have his explanations posted here.
Here are the concerns I raised on my last post, rephrased for clarity, and Dr. Wang’s responses.
1. In choosing a global carbon budget for the report’s scenario analysis, a target of 450 ppm of carbon dioxide, which translates to roughly 550 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent, is used. Is 550ppm CO2e a safe target, especially considering what we know about negative feedback loops and runaway climate change?
No. As many already know, climate change is already happening and there have been many arguments about what is a relatively safe level of carbon concentration to avoid dangerous climate change impacts. The scientific consensus has not been reached; as I have witnessed myself in the Copenhagen climate science congress in March 2009, you can hear people talking about levels from as low as 300 ppm to as high as 550ppm, yet no one is be perfectly sure. I do recognize that the 550 ppm target that we choose is at the upper end; this does not mean we accept this level as acceptable, but that is the only figure with wide scientific consensus in the IPCC AR4. I would like to reduce it to lower level if there is another widely accepted level. The report has shown that even with 550ppm CO2e it would be very difficult to reach and require significant courage from government to take radical changes soon. It is better to get them moving rather than scare them off at the first place, right? With the same methodology, you could always apply lower CO2 level if wanted, but the trajectories may look scarier. Our choice is rather a compromise between what is ideal and what is practical, as we said in the report. Read the full story
Today, we welcome for a guest post (and video…eco-rapping included!) Sustainable John of China’s Green Beat, which is back after a seven month hiatus with this excellent expose on geothermal energy in the Middle Kingdom’s capital.
You may not know it looking around Beijing, but not all of the buildings you see are heated with natural gas and coal. Some are heated (and some cooled as well) using geothermal energy. Two main technologies are currently being employed in Beijing to this end:
- Deep well geothermal
- Ground source heat pumps
Deep well geothermal 深层地热井
Beijing has some unique geothermal resources. Far below the Earth’s surface underneath Beijing’s skyscrapers, apartments, and parks, there is an enormous amount of water at a natural temperature of 60-70 degrees. This is the reason why Read the full story
Last Thursday (June 4), the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations conducted a hearing with the self-explanatory title of “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation in Climate Change.” An all-star trio of China hands provided testimony: Kenneth Lieberthal of University of Michigan and visiting fellow at Brookings Institution, Elizabeth Economy of Council on Foreign Relations and Bill Chandler of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. Although actual testimony (except perhaps Lieberthal’s) did not track the prepared testimonies that are accessible in the preceding links, they are all well researched and reasoned and worth the read. [Update: Video of actual testimony available here]
Senator John Kerry, the chair of the Committee, set the context for the session in his opening statement:
Last week, I visited China to assess where the country currently stands on climate and energy issues, and to explore opportunities for cooperation going forward. I met with top Chinese political leaders, energy executives, scientists, students, and environmentalists. What I heard and saw was enormously encouraging. Chinese decision-makers insisted to me repeatedly that China now grasps the urgency of this problem. People who, a few short years ago, weren’t even willing to entertain this discussion, are now unequivocal: China is eager to embrace low-carbon development pathways and is ready to be a positive, constructive player in negotiations going forward.
The question is how.
How can we believe you?
Rather than provide a thorough summary of the proceedings, I will focus on what I thought was the key message that lays at the core of Economy’s testimony, but was also touched upon by Lieberthal and Chandler-the need for measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV) actions (<–very helpful WRI report, btw), as called for in the Bali Action Plan. In Economy’s words, MRV is “the very building blocks of an effective domestic climate program for China as well as China’s commitment to a robust international [climate] regime.”
But Lieberthal was realistic about what China could commit to in Copenhagen, saying: Read the full story
Originally posted in The Wonk Room.
In an exclusive interview with Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, I discussed the challenge of ensuring a successful climate partnership with China, now the world’s greatest annual emitter of global warming pollution. Ahead of his visit to Beijing next week to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Stern was asked if he will discuss the problem of accurately accounting for carbon emissions — known among climate negotiators as “measuring, reporting, and verifying” (MRV). Stern replied that the way China’s actions “might be quantified” will “absolutely be part of the discussion,” but explained that he considered specific accountability mechanisms a lower-level concern:
I don’t think we’re going to be having a kind of textual discussion at this point with the senior people that I’m going to be dealing to actually try to be drafting what the text of an MRV provision would look like in an overall agreement. But implicitly that will be an important part of the discussion, because transparency and what the numbers add up to, whether it’s China, the US, Europe, Japan, or Brazil, it’s highly important, because it’s the thing that tells us if we’re going to be on track to do what we need to do over the next several decades.
Watch it [you'll need to crank up the volume to hear my questions]:
In fact, MRV has to be the foundation of a new global accord to solve the climate change problem — if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. But one has to really wonder if China is up to the task. Much has been written about the lack of accountability, transparency and enforceability in China’s governance system. Moving towards a Read the full story
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern delivered a speech on Wednesday (June 3) on the relationship of China and the U.S. and what both must do together as we head into a crucial period of bilateral and multilateral meetings on climate change.
Click here for video of speech.
Click here for full transcript of speech.
The basic message of Stern’s speech was this: “Thus, the impression that China refuses to take action is both inaccurate and unfair. Yet China can and will need to do much more if we are to have any hope of containing climate change.”
Stern was clear to reassure China that his call for China to take action was not an underhanded tactic of trying to suppress China’s economic development:
What China can do – and many in Chinese leadership clearly recognize this – is not to stop growing, but to grow smarter. The only way China will meet its development needs in the long run is to a) rebalance its economy away from polluting industry towards job-creating services, b) increase the efficiency with which industry and buildings consume energy and c) find alternatives to coal or ways to use it cleanly. In short, it is not a tradeoff between economic growth and environmental protection. China must do both.
The United States for it own part has its work cut out, concluded Stern: Read the full story
A common refrain from climate action naysayers is that, “China is building two coal-fired power plants a week!” They insist that the United States should wait until this major emitter takes on binding commitments to climate change mitigation before it decides to adopt global warming pollution reduction policies in the American Climate and Energy Security Act (H.R. 2454). They further claim that if such a bill became law, the United States would be transferring its jobs to countries such as China and India that are doing nothing to curb emissions. But that thinking is exactly wrong.
Critics fairly point to the fact that 80 percent of China’s power is derived from dirty coal, and that China recently surpassed the United States as the word’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Yet China’s per capita emissions remain a fifth that of the United States, and its historical cumulative per capita emissions from 1960 to 2005 are less than one-tenth that of the United States.
Still, the Chinese have recognized that it’s climate inaction—not climate legislation—that will lead to its own economic undoing. As the U.S. Congress debates the merits of enacting renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards, China has already forged ahead with building its own low-carbon economy, laying the foundation for clean-energy jobs and innovation.
China ranked second in the world in 2007 in terms of the absolute dollar amount invested in renewable energy, according to the Climate Group. It spent $12 billion, which put it just behind Germany’s $14 billion. These investments have placed China among the world leaders in solar, wind, electric vehicle, rail, and grid technologies. And now approximately 9 percent of China’s $586 billion economic stimulus package will go toward sustainable development (excluding rail and grid) projects.
China is expected to unveil in the coming weeks another extensive and unprecedented stimulus package—reported to be in the range of $440 billion to $660 billion—dedicated solely to new energy development over the next decade, including generous investments in wind, solar, and hydropower. If those expectations are fulfilled, China could emerge as the unquestioned global leader in clean-energy production, significantly increasing its chances to wean its energy appetite off coal, and at the same time ushering in an era of sustainable economic growth by exporting these clean-energy technologies to the world.
The bottom line: China is not there yet, but it is beginning to transition to a clean-energy economy through a wide range of actions. The United States should recognize China’s efforts and encourage China to expand upon them. We have sketched this claim before, but let’s run though the numbers in more detail. Read the full story
It seemed too good to be true. I had barely completed my own “3 trillion reasons” dance when I receive an email with a link to this Wall Street Journal report which suggested to me that the Chinese government had read and taken to heart the policy prescription of my solar policy article. WSJ said:
China said it will introduce a preferential tariff it will pay energy companies that use solar power for their generating capacity, as part of the government’s push for greater use of clean technology.
The preferential tariff — the price that China’s two state-owned electricity transmission and distribution companies will pay energy companies for their solar power — aims to make solar power competitive against traditional fuels, such as coal, which accounts for two-thirds of China’s electricity.
Shi Lishan, vice director of the National Energy Administration’s Renewable Energy Department, said the tariff will be 1.09 yuan (16 U.S. cents) per kilowatt hour for solar power that is supplied to the grid. Coal-fired power generation needs a tariff of just 0.3 yuan per kWh to be profitable.
For a moment, I was in solar heaven. But alas, all that glitters is not gold! Read the full story
Top Stories: Cash for renewables; China may raise fuel economy standards; Pledges smart grid by 2020; Beijing water price hike
I’m not one for sensationalism, but my gosh, when multiple news sources are reporting that the much anticipated renewable energy stimulus package will is going to be for the massive amount of 3 trillion yuan ($440 billion), its hard to resist. The amount is startling, considering that is is three quarters the size the economy-wide stimulus plan announced last November. No details have been given about the allocation of these funds; the news reports are saying a focus on wind, given the recent tripling of wind energy targets in 2020 to 20 GW installed capacity.
But given the size of the funds, one must really wonder if this is going to be a big handout to the nuclear industry, which itself benefited from a national target boost to 70 GW installed capacity by 2020, or big hydro for that matter. Unlike the November stimulus package, which was meant to be a short term boost for industry, this renewable energy package seems to be more far-sighted money, meant to be deployed over time from now till 2020. $440 billion is still quite a large sum considering that National Energy Bureau division chief Liang Zhiping was recently quoted as saying that a sum of $190 billion was needed to realize China’s 2020 renewable energy targets, but more consistent than the forecast by New Energy Finance last year that $398 billion (or $268 billion excluding big hydro) is needed. Then again, we also don’t to what extent nuclear, big hydro and grid infrastructure figure into the $440 billion on $190 billion numbers (they do not in NEF’s $268 billion forecast), so its all very hard to say.
On climate change, things are heating up on the international front. Last week, we saw the second Major Emitters Economies Forum in Paris and separately, a delegation led by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator John Kerry visited China to talk climate, energy and other things. This week, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is in Beijing and the Bonn climate meetings are also taking place. The news wires are going a little tizzy.
I will be sad to miss Zou Xi’s talk at BEER on toxic waste management (or the lack thereof), which if you are in Beijing you should try to attend. But while I am in D.C., I can console myself to two great looking events. On Wednesday (June 3), 10:30 am EST (10:30 pm Beijing time, after BEER), Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, will be at my place of work to share his views on how he sees China fitting into the climate change accord. A live webstream of the event will be available here.
On Thursday (June 4, 10:00 am EST), the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will conduct a hearing with the self-explanatory title of “Challenges and Opportunies for U.S.-China Cooperation in Climate Change.” An all-star trio of China hands will give testimony: Bill Chandler of the Carnegie Endowment (“secret talks”!), Elizabeth Economy of Council on Foreign Relations and author of A River Runs Black, and Ken Lieberthal of University of Michigan.
Needless to say, you’ll hear what I have to say right here on The Green Leap Forward!