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
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?
Eco-cities are in vogue. Renown eco-architect William McDonough has long been a champion, global engineering firm Arup is building a high-profile one near Shanghai, and earlier this year, Abu Dhabi announced its own eco-city intentions through the Masdar Initiative.
The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is among the latest projects to join this growing movement. First announced last November (click here for an interesting piece on how Tianjin was first selected as the site for the eco-city), the Tianjin eco-city projecy is jointly planned and managed by the governments of Singapore and Tianjin, and will cover an area of 30 square kilometers and is projected to be inhabited by some 300,000 residents. A master plan is to be completed by March, and ground is to be broken by July. The eco-city will integrate sustainable design and engineering covering at least 18 aspects, including public transportation, buildings, waste management and recycling, energy efficiency, air quality.
While the design of utopic eco-cities have been the stuff of science fiction for decade, commitments to actually make such science fiction reality is a more recent phenomenon, but one stemming out of imperative rather than coincidence. China is witnessing the largest scale of rural-to-urban migration in history. As of the end of 2006, some 44% of China’s population lived in urban areas; that figure is set to grow to as much as 70% by 2050, consisting of 1.1 billion people engaging in economic activities that are more energy intensive than rural activities and will put a heavy strain on resources unless more sustainable paths to development are deployed.
According to this piece from WorldChanging, if McDonough’s and Arup’s experiences are to be any indication, execution of the best-laid plans to build an eco-city may prove challenging. For an eco-city to truly come alive, green living must capture the hearts and minds of all levels of government and a significant portion of the residents, otherwise, the purpose and function of the city’s green infrastructure will not be fully utilized or properly maintained. It is important to realize that a city is not merely a static collection of buildings and roads, but consists of an organic, dynamic and evolving living space in which people adapt to or modify over time. If such adaptations or modifications are not consistent with the ecological design, the eco-city is doomed to fail. Viewed another way, that would be like installing the eco-city hardware with faulty software, causing the system to underperform, or worse still, overheat.