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By Julian Wong Jul.31.2010
In: uncategorized


After more than two and a half years of blogging, I am sad to announce that I will have to take an indefinite break from contributing original pieces to this site.

Starting Monday, I begin a new stint with the U.S. government at the Department of Energy representing the United States in our collaborations with the Chinese government to develop clean energy solutions to protect the health and future of our children and build a new foundation of economic prosperity.  Due to the nature of my new job, I will not be able to blog in the way I have for the previous 170 posts, but I am pretty confident that some day I will be right back with more writing.  It is addictive.

I would like to thank all my Read the full story

By Julian Wong Mar.5.2010
In: capital and finance, policy, uncategorized

In it to Win: How China is developing its Clean Energy Economy through Markets, Finance and Infrastrucuture

Yesterday on March 4, my colleagues and I finally released this long-awaited report “Out of the Running?  How Germany, Spain, and China Are Seizing the Energy Opportunity and Why the United States Risks Getting Left Behind” (picture of the report cover, pictured right).   As the title implies, it is a survey of how three countries with very different political economies are each adopting comprehensive policies to develop their clean energy sector in a way that the United States isn’t.  The table of page 5 of the report really sums it all up.  Germany, Spain and China have comprehensive and coherent and long-term approaches to developing their clean energy industries, while all the United States has for the most part are state-by-state and temporary policies.  The result?  The United States ranks only 19th in the world in clean energy product sales as a proportion of GDP compared to Germany at third, Spain at fourth, and China at sixth.

The report was launched at a major event co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress and Apollo Alliance on March 4th (conference agenda here) in which I spoke on a panel, walking through the main elements of the report.  The report was picked up by the New York, which featured a few nice quotes from me.

I re-post the chapter on China below (look at the full report for an equally thorough examination of Germany’s and Spain’s policies).  The first part of the chapter looks at China’s accomplishments thus far across the clean energy value chain of innovation, manufacturing, deployment, exports and job creation.  The second part takes a closer look at the policy tools, using the three-pillar framework of market creation, financing and infrastructure that I have previously articulated in a conference at RETECH 2010 last month (but also take note in that lecture that I point out that the fourth and fifth pillars of information transparency and international collaboration will be important for China’s future development of its clean energy economy).   Here’s the China section: Read the full story

By Julian Wong Feb.11.2010
In: uncategorized

China's Lead on Green Energy Technology: My Interview on Minnesota Public Radio

Earlier this week I appeared on Minnesota Public Radio with Georgetown University’s Joanna Lewis for 45 minutes of conversation on how China is taking the clean energy challenge by its neck and running with it.  Here’s the full audio to the discussion:

The show was clearly motivated by the recent Energy, with national targets for each renewable energy technology type for 2010 and 2020, being a case-in-point.  Such national targets send clear signals to the market that the government is committed to this new low-carbon industry for the long haul, thus stimulating private and provincial investment.

This discussion dove tails nicely with Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.4.2010
In: uncategorized

Top Ten Blog Posts on The Green Leap Forward in 2009

Happy New Year! Hope you are are staying warm, especially for those of you in northern China stuck in the worse winter storm in six decades.

Let’s kick off the new year with yet another Top Ten list, taking a look back at the best blog posts on GLF in 2009.  Last time, we attempted to select the top five posts of 2008 but ended up with seven or eight.  So for 2009, we’ll attempt to broaden the selection to the Top Ten.  As before, the selection is non-scientific and based on a combination of tracked page views (thank you, Google Analytics!) and the author’s favorites.  Unlike the last time, which was in no particular order, I have attempted to rank this list in order of significance:

1.  Eco-infrastructure: Letting Nature Do the Work (Feb 27).  Almost a white paper that explores lots of theoretical concepts and culminates in a set of 9 principles of what eco-communities (notice I avoid the phrase “eco-cities”) should embody.  This post stood out as my most fun to write (I love bridging the theoretical to pracitcal), but also turned out to be the single most visited post that was published in 2009.  (Of course, this metric is not perfect as it discriminates against posts that go up later in the year, and hence have less expsoure–this is why the Top Ten ranking is not based purely on number of hits.)

2.  China’s Climate Progress by the Numbers (Jun 4).  This piece, which reads like a glorified edition of Green Hops providing a comprehensive overview of many of China’s national clean energy policies, help put me on the map, so to speak, in the DC China climate/energy policy community.

3.  China in Copenhagen Series (Dec).  Not so much a single post,  but a collection of detailed posts, most of it written by guest bloggers Angel Hsu and her team from Yale University who were on the ground in Copenhagen tracking the Chinese delegation.   Their almost daily coverage and in depth discussion of the nuances of the Chinese climate position sent GLF daily hits soaring to record heights in December.  Thank you Angel and company!

4.  China to adopt “binding” goal to reduce CO2 emissions per unit GDP by 40 to 45% of 2005 levels by 2020 (Nov 26).  In terms of content, the title says it all.  I am particularly proud of this 3,300 word post because I managed to get this up within hours of the announcement, which accounted for it being one of the most visited posts for the year.

5.  Safety is your responsibility and MINE: The Heilongjiang coal mine disaster in context (Nov 25).  This tragedy, the largest in two years, underscores the point that China continues to pay a heavy price for their reliance on coal.

6.  numbers behind China’s energy intensity performance over the recent years…with some very interesting and original findings.

7.  China’s New Water Efficiency Targets (and Implications for Food and Energy) (Feb 17).  On the food-water-energy nexus, one of my favorite issues that I will hopefully be writing more about soon.

8.  How Did China Fare in Copenhagen? A Critical Analysis by Someone Not in the Room (Dec 23).  A post-mortem of how China did in the Copenhagen climate negotiations.  In a word–well, which is not necessarily great news for global climate cooperation.  This is kind of part of the whole “China in Copenhagen” series in #3 as well, but I set it apart as its own because this consists entirely of GLF’s original analysis, which sets itself apart from the other posts in the series that came mostly from guest bloggers.

9.  Dawn of a New Era: The Gansu Solar Concession and Landmark Solar Roofs Program (Mar 27).  This post described new incentive policies that marked the beginning of a new era on the Chinese solar industry.  After years of manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels almost exclusively for overseas markets, China is now getting serious about deploying them domestically.  The hot interest in China’s solar industry led to high score on the blog counter for this particular post, and others like it, such as this and this.

10.  Announcements of U.S.-China Cooperation Create a Path to Copenhagen Success (Nov 22).  This list would not be complete without a the story on how Read the full story

By Julian Wong Dec.31.2009
In: uncategorized
1 comment

Top Ten Chinese Energy News of 2009

The National Energy Bureau, which falls under the might NDRC, released its list of top ten developments in China’s energy industry for 2009.  Here’s the list which I translated, some of which I’ve blogged before (and hyperlinked), and some of which I will discuss in future posts:

1.  China sets 2020 targets to raise non-fossil fuel’s share of primary energy consumption to 15 percent, and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent compared to 2005 levels.

2.  The China – Central Asia gas pipeline went into operation, bringing Central Asian natural gas into China.

3.  After 15 years of negotiations, China and Russia finally sign an agreement to build a crude oil pipeline and other energy cooperation agreements.

4.  By the first half of 2009, China closed down more than 54 gigawatts of small, inefficient coal-fired thermal power plants.

5.  Construction commenced on China’s firs 10 GW wind power mega base in Jiuquan in Gansu province.

6.  Construction started on third-generation nuclear power projects in Sanmen (Zhejiang), Haiyang (Shandong) and Taishan (Guangdong).

7.  Shanxi, one of the largest coal-producing provinces, achieved large-scale reductions in small coal mines and coal enterprises.  By the end of 2010, the province’s coal enterprises will be reduced from Read the full story

By angelhsu Dec.17.2009
In: climate change, uncategorized

China in Copenhagen, Day 10: Of Chickens and Eggs

By Angel Hsu and Andrew Barnett, part of Yale University’s “Team China” blogging live from Copenhagen.

As we predicted from the beginning, the negotiations in Copenhagen are coming down to two countries that could make or break a deal – China and the United States. As we mentioned in our post on Day 9, the crux of this deadlock seems to be centered around a few critical issues.  The United States’ Congress won’t pass domestic legislation without key developing countries like China, which is now a major greenhouse gas emitter signing on to reduction commitments; and China sees themselves as a developing country that has acted progressively and responsibly to address climate change when it technically has no obligation to do so under the UNFCCC.

Sure, we know that the U.S.-China showdown makes for great headlines and COP-15 drama.  It’s been exciting to see leaders from both the U.S. and China duke it out Celebrity Deathmatch-style through sharp words, criticisms, and finger-pointing over the course of the past 10 days in Copenhagen.  However, as we mentioned yesterday, we’re not so sure that this is a genuine  “impasse” between the two countries is immovable or, instead, a nuanced disagreement over issues like MRV (“measurable, reportable, verifiable”) that can be resolved before the heads of state meet Thursday and Friday.  We’ll provide updates on some of the U.S.-China dialogue on the MRV issue in this post, as well as provide suggestions as to how the U.S. and China might work swiftly together to bring resolution to key sticking points (as if Beijing were built in a day).

1) Which comes first – the chicken or the egg?  U.S. climate bill or China MRV?

One of the biggest headlines today involved Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s presence at the Bella Center. Senator Kerry Read the full story

By angelhsu Dec.9.2009
In: climate change, uncategorized

China in Copenhagen Day 3: It's getting hot in here - Tuvalu raises the bar, China reacts

Guest post by Angel Hsu and Christopher Kieran, part of “Team China” tracking the Chinese delegation live from Copenhagen

While the drama surrounding the Guardian’s leak of a “secret” Danish negotiating text seems to be fizzling down (see our previous post), this was most likely due in some part to a small island nation now famous here in Copenhagen.  Yes, you guessed it – Tuvalu, a tiny Polynesian island occupying just 10 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

During the morning plenary session today, however, the Tuvaluans were not as diminutive as the size of their small island state would suggest.  After Tuvalu proposed the creation of a contact group for a ‘Copenhagen Protocol’ (full text of draft here), China’s apparent negative reactions sent the Tuvaluans to motion for a suspension of the talks.  The proposed ‘Copenhagen Protocol’ would parallel the current negotiations regarding the Kyoto Protocol (KP). It would be stricter than Kyoto, and legally bind parties to keep global atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 350 parts per million and global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

While Tuvalu fears it will drown from sea-level rise, Tuvalu negotiator Ian Fry sought high moral ground today stating, ”Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and our future rests on the outcome of this meeting.” Fry repeated the expectation of many nations to sign a legally binding deal by the end of next week.

Both developed and large developing countries like China and India responded strongly to Tuvalu’s proposal, stating that a 350 ppm cap on atmospheric concentrations would unreasonably constrain their economies. Their concern is to be expected, considering that CO2 concentrations already exceed 350 ppm and are currently closer to 400 ppm.

Tuvalu’s position is backed by the small island states (AOSIS) and some African nations and up to this point, all members of the Group of 77, the now 130-country block of developing nations.  China’s reaction to the Tuvalian proposal marks for the first time a significant rift between China and the G77, both of which had thus far been consistent in their positions regarding major negotiating issues (e.g. supporting the UNFCCC and Bali Road Map). China’s position against Tuvalu’s proposal lies in their belief that Read the full story

By Julian Wong Dec.8.2009
In: climate change, government, solar, uncategorized

China in Copenhagen Day 2: Danish Distraction; Su Wei Gets Tough on the Developed World

This guest post is by Angel Hsu and Christopher Kieran, both graduate students at Yale University reporting live from Copenhagen exclusively for The Green Leap Forward.

The China Information and Communication Center (中国新闻与交流中心) held an unpublicized press briefing featuring Su Wei (pictured center of panel), China’s lead negotiator and Director-General of the NDRC’s Department of Climate Change.  While mainly consisting of reporters, the event was open to anyone – well, just about any one of 50 people with their ear to the ground who managed to squeeze in early before crowds more were turned away.  We were two of the lucky few who successfully navigated to the quiet back corner of the Bella Center, near the Chinese delegation’s offices, where the briefing took place.  The briefing also came after China and the G-77 delegations canceled their press conferences this afternoon, only to restage them later in the day, supposedly in response to some controversy over leaked Danish draft text.  But more on this later.

Mr. Su was completely unabashed when it came to his comments regarding developed country commitments.  Targeted amongst his criticisms were the European Union, Japan, and the United States.

  • During the European Union’s briefing earlier today, representatives compared China’s carbon intensity target to commitments by the European Union, suggesting that China’s target isn’t strong enough.  Mr. Su said that if the E.U. wants to make any comparisons, it should compare the E.U.’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol with their actual performance to date.  Those are fighting words.  He also said that China’s carbon intensity target is completely incomparable with total emissions reductions and that it’s foolish to compare China’s recently announced target with reductions required from developed countries.  After citing numbers that made it appear that the E.U. was not substantively racheting up their emission reductions for the second Kyoto commitment period, Mr. Su asked the audience whether we thought their commitments were truly “ambitious, meaningful, and substantive,” allowing the translator to take a break and making his point clear in plain English.
  • In response to a question about Japan’s commitments and whether they were doing enough in terms of financing, transfer of know-how and technology, Mr. Su lauded their promise to reduce emissions 25 percent by 2020 and the positive progress they’ve made thus far. However, even the Japanese shouldn’t feel self-satisfied, as the premise for their 25 percent reductions is based on the U.S. also making commitments in line with the Kyoto Protocol.  And, as we all know, the prospect of the U.S. signing on to Kyoto is as likely as a sunny hot day in Copenhagen during December (God willing we all do our jobs at COP-15).  Therefore, Mr. Su concluded that the Japanese proposal de facto has no meaning.
  • Moving on to the United States, Mr. Su said that Obama’s recent announcement that the U.S. would commit to reducing emissions 17 percent by 2020 below 2005 levels was “not remarkable, not notable,” again using English to punctuate his statement.  Mr. Su noted that U.S. emissions grew 16 percent between 1990 and 2005.  He pointed out the obvious truth that the proposed 17 percent reduction (which is passing as slowly as chewing gum through the U.S. Senate’s backlogged intestinal tract) amounts to only a 1 percent reduction as far as the Kyoto Protocol is concerned.

It’s no surprise that Mr. Su harped back to the principle of we heard repeatedly from Mr. Su, historical emissions matter, as the cumulative emissions of the E.U. and U.S. are much larger than China’s.  From China’s perspective, the carbon intensity reductions they have put on the table are an offering where none is necessary.  Such an action represents their goodwill and a “responsible attitude,” according to Su.

A question was asked about if and when China would consider peaking its carbon emissions (see previou spost “Peaking Duck:Beijing’s growing appetite for climate action“)  Mr. Su basically reiterated how unfair he felt it was to talk about developing country peak emissions at this point and that developed countries should shoot for achieving their pick as soon as possible.  He also said because China was still industrializing and heavily reliant on coal and other fossil fuels, it would be difficult to predict a peak.

The briefing also came after China and the G-77 delegations canceled their press conferences this afternoon, reportedly due to panic onset when a Danish text was leaked that would supposedlyt give more power to developed countries. The Guardian provides a summary of some of the key tenets of this “secret draft agreement:”

In particular, it is understood to:

  • Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;
  • Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called “the most vulnerable
  • Weaken the UN’s role in handling climate finance;
  • Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

(We have not yet verified how the Guardian got to these numbers, as the leaked Danish text does not make mention of specific quantities. The current disparity in per capita emissions between developing and developed countries is much larger than this, meaning it would take a lot for both developed and developing countries to reach these levels.  We hope to address this in a later post.)

Surprisingly, it seemed that third-party observers had more knowledge of the sensitive texts.  When asked what he thought about the Danish proposal to require developing countries to determine a peak year for collective emissions (Article 9), Mr. Su responded that he was unaware of the text and that discussions of peak emission years for developing countries was premature.  In the United States’ briefing for NGOs an hour later, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing also downplayed the significance of the Danish proposal, saying that there were multiple Danish texts circulating and that the hosts wouldn’t be doing their job without offering more food for fodder.  It seems to us that this may have been a strategic move on the part of Pershing and the U.S. to lessen some of the initial hysteria rippling through the developing country parties.  Or perhaps lead negotiators really were too busy hammering out texts behind closed doors that they didn’t have time to check their e-mail.

[Note by Julian:  It now seems that Guardian may have been reviewing what appears to be an early draft that has since undergone "extensive revisions" in consultation with both developed and developing countries, reveals ChinaDialogue.  The Danish Government itself is denying the existence of a “secret draft for a new Copenhagen Agreement” but rather “many working papers used for testing various positions.”  See also this analysis by my colleague as to how all this is "typical overblown COP drama."  Let's also not forget that the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) also have their own "secret text" outlining pretty tough negotation stances (see previous post "Green Hops: BASIC Instinct, New Energy Plans, Natural Gas Deals").]

By Julian Wong Dec.2.2009
In: uncategorized

Happy Second Birthday!

Today marks the second anniversary of The Green Leap Forward.

Its been a real honor to bring news and analysis on China’s energy and environmental situation to the English-speaking world.  GLF’s second year saw 65 new posts, roughly the same as the first (62) despite two major geographical relocations (Beijing -> Singapore -> Washington, D.C.) on my part, coupled with starting a new full-time job that really ate into my blogging time.

Of course I’ve doubled up on some of my work-products for blog posts, so in a sense, I’ve “cheated” some.  An increase in posts by guest bloggers also helped fill the gap.  GLF also benefited this past year from technology, with a new revamped RSS feed, twitter account (@greenleapfwd), Facebook fan page, and Linkedin group page. The latter half of the second year also saw a noticeable shift to US-China dynamics in clean energy and climate change, reflecting the nature of my day job, but also a fundamental shift in US-China relations, with clean energy and climate change featuring prominently in that metamorphosis.

What’s ahead for GLF?  I’m going to try to start ramping up the frequency of my posts, but am hesitant to promise anything, especially with that thing called Copenhagen to start in less than a week!  While GLF will continue to cover developments in Chinese energy policy and commerce, I hope to write more posts on water and the water-energy nexus as well.  I will also experiment more with shorter punchier posts (although its often hard for me to refrain from in-depth 3,000 word exposes) and to revive the popular Green Hops news compilations.

I will take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this possible, including my news sources, contacts on the ground in China who continue to feed me with insight, guest bloggers for adding to the diversity of perspectives, and most of all, my (growing!) family, who has tolerated geographical dislocations and my late nights on the lap top, and to whom I dedicate the next year of posts to.

Finally, I leave readers, as a  “door gift”, with an this wild-looking Read the full story

By Julian Wong Nov.25.2009
In: energy efficiency, uncategorized

Safety is your responsibility and MINE: The Heilongjiang coal mine disaster in context

“We cannot pursue GDP with blood.” Li Zhanshu, Governor of Heilongjiang province

Pictured right, rescuers get ready to go down into the pit to search for survivors at the site of the accident at the Xinxing Coal Mine in Hegang City, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province on Nov. 22, 2009. (Photo credit: Xinhua, via China Daily)

Over the weekend, a tragic deadly coal mine blast in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, claimed, at the time of writing, 104 coal miner’s lives. Another four remain missing. [Update:  the death toll has risen to 106.]  Coal mining in China has been understandably dubbed the world’s deadliest profession, with a coal mine explosion seeming to take place every week.  Usually, these blasts are small, claiming half a dozen to a dozen lives.  The blast occurred at the Xinxing Coal Mine under the state-owned Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group’s subsidiary in Hegang City.  Some 528 miners were working underground at the time of the blast.  The Hegang accident is the most deadliest in China in two years since 105 perished in December 2007 in an explosion in a Shanxi coal mine [Update:  now the deadliest since 181 perished in Shandong in August 2007].  In fact, one of The Green Leap Forward‘s first posts precisely discussed this fatal Shanxi blast two years ago as as a stark reminder of the price that China pays with its voracious appetite for coal.

Some things in China, it seems, just don’t change.

The mining accident in Heilognjiang comes in the wake of an earlier-than-usual onset of a cold hard winter, coupled with a notable uptick in national GDP growth in the third quarter of this year, which is probably sustaining itself well into this final quarter.  With coal accounting for 80 percent of China’s power needs, it is no stretch of the imagination that these combination of factors means that Chinese miners are now working much harder than usual.  “If the coal mine shuts down, the lights go out in Beijing,” says a miner just outside of the classic coal towns, Datong, Shanxi.

As a state-owned mine, the Xinxing mine in Heillongjiang is supposed to be a relatively safer mine.  But that’s not necessarily Read the full story