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China in Copenhagen Day 1: Framing the Issues

As promised, for the nex two weeks, Angel Hsu (pictured right) and her colleagues from Yale University will be blogging live from Copenhagen. Angel Hsu is a Doctoral Student at Yale University, focusing on Chinese environmental performance measurement, policy and governance.  Prior to Yale, she worked in the Climate Change and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think-tank.  There, she managed the GHG Protocol’s projects in China, which focused on capacity-building on greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards for Chinese government and businesses.

Greetings from Copenhagen! I, along with seventy Yale students, have descended upon Denmark’s capital to participate in the Fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate talks that will hopefully result in a clearer picture of what a post-Kyoto agreement would be.  This “China in Copenhagen” series of blog posts featured on The Green Leap Forward will follow China’s negotiating position during the next few weeks.  We’ll shadow China’s negotiating team, speak with key experts, and report back to GLF on a daily basis.

While China has long established its negotiating position for Copenhagen, we’ve identified a set of major issues for the Chinese negotiating team at Copenhagen.  A team of masters students and I (call us “Team China” if you will), have carefully reviewed the negotiating texts (non-papers in policy-speak) and developed a series of policy scenarios and strategic recommendations for how China can act as a leader in this talks to achieve an outcome that is optimal for both themselves and the global climate regime.

What are these issues?

  • Legal structure: what are the options for the legal nature (or “bindingness”) of a post-Kyoto agreement and what would be most optimal for China?
  • Financing: how will China ensure appropriate funding for its mitigation and adaptation actions? Read the full story

JUCCCE Clean Energy Forum--Closing Summary

The following is the complete transcript, modified and supplemented for completeness and readability, of the closing speech that the author of this blog (pictured below) delivered on November 11 at the JUCCCE Clean Energy Forum in Beijing.

We are at war.  A world war.  But unlike World War I or II, this is not a war about military tanks, but it’s a war about gas tanks.  This is not a war about military strength, it’s a war about political strength, and innovation.  This is not a war about conquering territories, its about conquering our addiction to fossil fuels.  And unlike the first two wars, we are all fighting from the same side.  We are engaged in a global energy and climate war.  We have essentially, through our reckless consumption of the earth’s natural resources, provoked an unanticipated response in the world’s climatic system.  We have essentially pitted Mother Nature against Mother Nature, and we are all caught in the middle.

So what now?

We need a serious restructuring of the way we organize our energy system, implement new rules and policies, and adopt new ways of using energy.  We need to, as Rob Watson says, change transform “ego-nomics” into “eco-nomics,” and we do this by appropriate adapting human laws to the immutable laws of nature.

So how do we get there?  How do we achieve the innovation to meet the energy-climate challenge?  We need an smart and well informed mix of regulatory and market mechanisms.  There is no single silver bullet, but I believe that over the past two days of discourse, we have collectively started forming a framework for the array of solutions, a full complement of many green bullets to get the green revolution under way.  I see three themes emerging from our discussions:  Read the full story

By Julian Wong Oct.22.2008
In: energy efficiency, green buildings, solar, water
3 comments

Beijing Energy & Environment Exhibition 2008 Review

This is the 50th post for The Green Leap Forward!  To celebrate, we visited the 2008 China (Beijing) International Energy Saving and Environmental Protection Exhibition held at the Beijing Exhibition Center this past weekend (Oct 17 through 20).

The first thing that strikes the visitor is the Cathedral-like grandeur of the Beijing Exhibition Center.  It was opened in 1954 “with the late Premier Zhou En-Lai cutting the red ribbon and Chairman Mao Tse-Tung contributing poetic thoughts.” It doesn’t look like it is LEED-certified, but being more than half a century old, visitors could take heart in the fact that the building’s carbon debt has probably been paid off a while ago.

The Green Leap Forward TV (GLFTV) film crew (i.e. me and my trusty Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS3) spotted a maniacal looking tall white guy among the attendees.  He turned out to be none other than the ever-enthusiastic “Sustainable John” from China’s Green Beat fame.  John graciously agreed to sum up the mood in the Solar Hut portion of the exhibition:

This other clip shows what it was like in the outside area of the exhibition.  Of special focus in this clip was a concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) installation on display. The company that makes these CPV units is Beijing Globalac (北京富利宝公司), which also makes a whole host of other power control systems for various commercial and industrial applications:

There were tons of other exhibits other than solar applications, such as home-scale wind turbines, energy efficient lighting and other home appliances, green building materials, smart electricity meters, electricity consumption monitoring software and hardware, and of course, technological applications that were deployed in the recent “Green Olympics”.  According to the Star Daily, there were some 203 vendors spread across some 12,000 plus square meters.  It really did feel like a whole lot more than 203 vendors though (felt more like 500 to 1,000, as mentioned in the above video).  Here are just a few that caught the eye of GLF TV: Read the full story

Green Hops: BYD Auto, Algae, Green Bricks

BYD Auto/ Warren Buffet Update. Seems like the investment of Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings in Shezhen-based BYD Auto is not just a bet on electric vehicles, but also on the collaboration between MidAmerican and BYD to develop “rapid charge batteries” for electrical grid systems to serve as energy storage for renewable but intermittent power such as wind and solar, revealed MidAmerican’s chairman, David Sokal, at a press conference earlier this week in Hong Kong. (I have argued before in my solar blog how grid-tied energy storage solutions are the key to a clean electricity revolution.) Elsewhere, it appears more definitive that BYD’s entry into the Israeli market will be facilitated by Clal Industries and Investments, a unit of conglomerate IDB Development. Clal will start importing BYD’s electric vehicles into Israel next year. Such developments have apparently caught the eyes of Portland’s city officials, who are trying to woo BYD to start make America’s greenest city its North American hub.

Post-Olympic Traffic Measures Draw Mixed Reactions. As smog re-envelopes Beijing, the capital is reinstating a modified set of traffic measures to curb the growth of auto emissions that will, among other things, ban corporate and private cars from taking to the roads one day per week depending on their license plate number. Xinhua reports mixed reception to the measures, with some contemplating purchasing a second car, and others more astutely observing that “to ban should not be the ultimate way to ease Beijing’s traffic woes… Read the full story

By Julian Wong Apr.8.2008
In: green buildings, urban planning, wind
2 comments

China’s Construction Boom/Doom

Anyone who has recently been to any sizeable Chinese city can attest that the pace of building construction in China is simply astounding. By some accounts, China is adding some 2 billion square meters of construction area per year, accounting for nearly half the world’s total. These superlative statistics coincide with the largest scale of rural-to-urban migration in human history being experienced in China (we’ve talked about this phenomena previously here and here).

Construction boom? Perhaps more like construction doom! By some metrics, buildings are the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions in our environment. Just think of all the kinds of basic materials that goes into a building—glass, steel, cement, paint—the manufacture, processing and transportation of which are energy and water-intensive. And that’s just in the construction phase. Once the building is in use, think of heating, cooling, lighting and mobility (escalators and lifts) needs! All that energy use implies the burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels and emissions of carbon.

Who will save China now?

Enter the Dragon. The Green Dragon Media Project, that is. The Green Dragon Media Project web portal is an in-depth online multimedia project that provides an analytical framework to understanding the forces at play in the Chinese construction industry, and what can be done to introduce best practices in green building design to China. The portal, a compendium to a 35-minute film on greening the Chinese construction industry (below’s a teaser!), presents a remarkable collection of video interview clips, and explores in quite a bit of detail the incentives and disincentives facing the construction industry, government, legal system, and the public with respect to residential and commercial development.

One recurring observation throughout the portal is the disjunct between the edicts of the central government and the level of enforcement of such edicts at the provincial, municipal and local levels. This has spurred the GDMP team to create, for their next film project, and instructional film on green buildings specifically targeting provincial mayors. Because much of the local economic development agenda is determined at the provincial level, educating and informing local leadership must be seen as an effective lever to effecting a green shift.

Among the things that should be pitched to the mayors is the economic benefits that will stem from a range of green jobs and technologies related to energy efficiency (roofing, insulation, advanced heating and cooling systems), water efficiency (efficient plumbing, micro-irrigation) and sustainable building materials (recycled carpeting, eco-friendly paints, sustainable timber).

Here at The Green Leap Forward, we’ll track the companies and technologies that are making this green construction revolution happen. One Beijing-based startup seeking to make its mark in the green building industry is Qidi Daring Energy Technology Co. Qidi provides comprehensive consulting services, providing advisory services on all aspects of the green building life cycle, including green building design, energy efficiency, energy audits, indoor air quality, and on green building standards such as the U.S. LEED system and China’s green building evaluation standards.

I end this post with one thought—there is too much talk about green buildings that leave out the bigger picture of smart urban design. A building, after all exists within the context of a neighborhood, town or a city. What’s the point of a construction boom in green buildings if no thought is given to curbing sprawl, promoting the use of mass urban transit, or maintaining a certain amount of green space? It is said that the greenest building is the one never built. Obviously that is not practical, so the question is how can we deploy the greenest technologies and methods not only build our buildings, but also arrange and structure them amongst other buildings and urban structures to create a holistically sustainable built environment?