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
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.
A review of a study on low carbon development pathways for China by the Tyndall Centre. One of its co-authors, Dr. Wang Tao, speaks at the Beijing Energy & Environment Roundtable (BEER) tomorrow (May 5, Tuesday). Click here for more details.
A report by the Sussex Energy Group and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research entitled China’s Energy Transition: Pathways for Low Carbon Development set out four different scenarios for low-carbon development in China in an attempt to demonstrate how China’s economic development can be decoupled from carbon emissions growth–allowing its economy to expand by some 8 to 13 times while presumably stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The four scenarios are summarized in the table below:
Based on their scenario analysis, the authors draw the following key observations: Read the full story