This is slightly dated by now but I want to be sure this is posted for posterity’s sake. In mid-May I participated in a panel discussion at the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center here in Washington, DC. The topic of discussion was “Decarbonizing King Coal: Growing U.S.-China Clean Technology Cooperation”, and my fellow panelists Ming Sun of Clean Air Task Force (pictured right) and Albert Lin representing Future Fuels, LLC (pictured left) had very interesting perspectives on the role of “clean coal” in China’s energy future. (And that’s me in the center of the pic.) The focus of my presentation was to provide a more macro look at China’s innovation capacity in clean energy technologies. The whole sessions can be accessed at this archived webcast.
For the convenience of readers, I am pasting my presentation outline (as prepared, but not necessarily delivered) here: Read the full story
I was on Worldfocus radio last night with Rashid Kang of Greenpeace China for a general discussion moderated by Martin Savidge on China’s ambitions to green its economy (the other shade of green). Listen here:
Rashid and I explored the following issues:
- how China is greening rapidly and developing many alternative energy programs — from the world’s most efficient coal power plants to vast wind power fields and solar water heating technology
- implications of China’s growing automobile market
- why nuclear power could be the wrong alternative energy solution for China
- how food security affects China’s alternative energy strategy
- what is potentially, as I called it, “the holy grail of renewables” — energy storage
- and, why there are no climate change skeptics in China, but why China can’t go green overnight
Lesson to budding radio interviewees…always be cognizant of Read the full story
More perspectives on the announcements coming out of Beijing, this time focusing on the implications on Copenhagen. Co-written with my colleague Andrew Light and originally published here.
The United States and China announced on Tuesday a package of cooperative agreements on clean energy and climate change that are remarkable in both breadth and ambition (see previous post “Obama and Hu announce comprehensive strategy for clean energy and climate change collaboration“). The cluster of seven initiatives, partnerships, action plans, and research centers covers a range of low-carbon energy strategies from electric cars to energy efficiency technologies.
These agreements follow on the heels of last Sunday’s announcement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that the United States has embraced the Danish proposal for finalizing an interim international climate agreement in Copenhagen in December. The U.S.-China summit help further signal a positive shift in expectations for Copenhagen between the two countries responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s anthropogenic carbon emissions.
Perhaps the most important, and most overlooked, achievement at this week’s summit was the commitment to promote greater transparency on efforts to reduce emissions. This should increase confidence for the prospects of creating a robust international agreement on climate change.
Transparency, accountability, and verification
It is now clear that China is signaling its increasing willingness to meet the standards of transparency, accountability, and verification that will Read the full story
As expected, the U.S.-China presidential summit in Beijing yielded an agreement on clean energy and climate change that focused on collaboration rather than emissions target setting (see my comments in Time.com and China Daily). Here’s a run-down on what this cooperation entails, in a piece published simultaneously at Climate Progress with my colleague Andrew Light.
“Very exciting day here in Beijing. There’s enormous interest in both governments in working together to fight climate change. The package announced today is far-reaching and can make a real difference in cutting emissions.” - David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs
Today, a comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than we had anticipated and contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.
These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:
1. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. A memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China’s National Development and Reform Commission sets out avenues for collaboration on capacity building in climate change, with an initial focus on helping China to develop a robust, transparent and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
2. Joint Clean Energy Research Center. Originally announced this July, more details were provided on the joint center that will “facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.” Financial support from public and private sources of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries, will be provided. The Center’s research will initially focus on building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. (Factsheet)
3. Electric Vehicles. Those initiative will “include joint standards development, demon Read the full story
Here’s a 7 minute television interview I did with the US television foreign policy program “Foreign Affairs”, discussing China’s clean energy policies. If you based in the U.S., it may not be too late to catch this on the TV (check schedule).
(p.s. not sure what the first visual on “a new direction for Hong Kong” means!)
I suspect there may be some questions regarding my remarks about 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
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
“This climate change crisis is a game-changer in U.S.-China relations…an opportunity that cannot be missed”
- Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House Speaker, May 26, 2009 in Beijing.
The nomination of Jon Huntsman, currently the governor of the state of Utah, as the U.S. ambassador to China brings back into focus the role of clean energy cooperation in the furthering of U.S.-China relations. The choice of Gov. Huntsman has been lauded for various reasons-his fluency in Chinese, his track record as an Asian diplomat, the bipartisanship on the part of President Obama in nominating a Republican for the position (although some say he did so to take Gov. Huntsman, a likely Republican contender for the 2012 elections, out of contention)-but receiving less attention is the fact that Gov. Huntsman is a vocal advocate of the clean energy economy and the greenest governor that Utah as ever had (see youtube video interview).
The siren calls for US-China collaboration on clean energy and climate change action have been sounding nonstop ever since a new sheriff took over in Washington, D.C. Such exhortations are well grounded in the similarities of the two countries’ energy profiles. China and the U.S. are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in absolute terms on annual basis, both are heavily reliant coal for power and imported petroleum for transportation fuel and other non-transportation uses and both have had (and continue) to build continental-wide energy infrastructure to support a large population. Various groups, such as Brookings Institution, Asia Society and Pew Center, Natural Rersources Defense Council, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have recently published reports providing policy recommendations for clean energy cooperation to form the basis of a momentous new chapter in U.S.-China diplomacy.
But Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal warn in a recent piece titled “The G2 Mirage” in Foreign Affairs (subscription required) that we are only setting ourselves up for failure we we think that the U.S. and China are the only players in the game: Read the full story