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
The clean-energy float at the 60th Anniversary celebrations on October 1st in Beijing. (Photo credit: Xinhua/Li Gang)
This week [October 1st] marks the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The first 30-year phase was one of revolution, marked by one bloody internal purge after another, but the next 30-year phase was one of pragmatism, which underpinned economic and social reform leading to unrivaled rates of economic growth.
China now finds itself at a crossroads. As the country struggles to come to terms with its imminent status as a global superpower, it is staring in the face of vast, systemic resource challenges. China faces a triple threat to its energy, water, and food security, and there is one common thread: climate change.
In the case of energy, an overexploitation of coal—and increasingly oil—to fuel its economic expansion is the root cause of rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting change in climate is in turn altering precipitation patterns, leading to flash floods in some areas but exacerbating droughts in large parts of others, an urgent predicament for a many land-locked regions that are already water-scarce. Such water scarcity, together with noxious acid rain caused by fossil fuel combustion, will in turn choke off agricultural productivity, threatening future food supplies.
This food-water-energy “trilemma” will threaten 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
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
Thinking Out of the Climate Box: Re-Examining Monolithic Approaches to the "Common But Differentiated Responsibilities" Impasse
As international climate talks conclude today in Bonn, Germany, the time is right for another climate change policy edition of The Green Leap Forward. Today, we explore emerging new frameworks that might just get China on the path to enacting tangible emissions reductions.
All eyes are now on the U.S. (with new leadership), and as always, China. Climate change policy in the two biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting countries (on an annual basis) is heating up. Earlier this year, we witnessed a few zesty exchanges between US and China delegations as the latter continues its unswerving resistance to any possibility of binding emissions caps, peddling its “common but differentiated responsibilities” (hereinafter “CBDR”) refrain.
CBDR has been the linchpin argument of China’s negotiation position in the international climate change policy arena (see previous post ). CBDR is grounded in a concern for social equity, best explained in terms of examining (1) who are historically culpable for GHG emissions while giving consideration to (2) per capita emissions and (3) the relative economic development status of each country. The typical Beijing position would amount to something like the following:
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) should be calculated on a per capita basis from 1900 to ensure fair play as nations strive to halve global emissions by 2050…developed countries, which are home to just 20 percent of the world’s population, have contributed 75 percent of all global GHGs emissions since the Industrial Revolution, according to the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions should be calculated on a per capita basis for each country, so that every nation can shoulder a common but differentiated responsibility for climate change…Such a calculation “better reflects the principal of equity for developing countries”…
Its been a busy few weeks since our last Green Hops, so GLF is gonna pack in the updates over two posts consecutive posts.
The “worst drought in half a century” affecting eight northern and central provinces dominated the past week’s news. A 90 percent drop in average rainfall since last November will affect 11 million hectares of wheat crops and create a drinking water shortage for 4.4 million people and 2.2. million livestock. RMB 187 billion of emergency funds have been earmarked. As stop-gap measures, authorities are diverting water from the Yangtze and Yellow River to drought-ridden areas, as well as shelling the sky with pellets to induce rain, Beijing Olympics-style. The water diversion measure has been able to get half of the wheat lands irrigated, but is rather ironic given that a recent study shows that 82% of China’s whopping 3.57 million square kilometers of degraded lands (equivalent to the size of 10 Germanys!) exists in the Yangtze River and Yellow River valleys. The water scarcity woes of northern China have been well described on this blog by Christine Boyle. The World Bank also chimes in with its own comprehensive list of policy recommendation to address water scarcity. Read the full story