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Today, each Chinese citizen produces only one fifth the GHG emissions of an average American consumer, and China still has many unmet energy needs. Most Chinese have a much lower standard of living than the average American. Half the Chinese population has no access to winter heating, and most have limited access to motorized transportation. Therefore, the challenge for China in the short term is to reduce the rate of growth of its GHG emissions as it strives to meet the growing energy demands of its people.
"Breaking the Climate Impasse with China", a New Publication by ChinaFAQs Expert Kelly Sims GallagherPosted by ChinaFAQs on Dec 10, 2009
ChinaFAQs Expert Kelly Sims Gallagher has just published a new discussion paper entitled “Breaking the Climate Impasse with China: A Global Solution” in the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements Discussion Paper Series.
International climate negotiations are at an impasse because the world’s two largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, the United States and China, are unwilling to accept binding emission-reduction commitments. At the same time, each blames the other for its inaction. This paper proposes a global “deal” for breaking the deadlock in a way that reconciles both countries’ economic concerns with the imperative of reducing emissions. The deal has two core elements: (1) All major emitting countries agree to reduce GHG emissions by implementing significant, mutually agreeable, domestic policies and (2) The largest industrialized-country emitters agree to establish a global Carbon Mitigation Fund that would finance the incremental cost of adopting low-carbon technologies in developing countries.
Download the full paper at: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/19698/breaking_the_climate_impasse_with_china.html.
Senior Chinese climate statesman He Jiankun, speaking at the Chinese Pavilion at the Copenhagen Climate Talks, announced that the Chinese carbon intensity would be introduced as legislation to be passed by China’s National People’s Congress, its highest law-making body.
Professor He, the Director of Tsinghua University’s Low Carbon Energy Laboratory and the University’s former Executive Vice President, spoke December 9 as part of a series of regular talks the Chinese are sponsoring in their first ever dedicated space at a major climate meeting.
Professor He emphasized that China’s commitment to making the 40-45% reduction in carbon intensity between 2005 and 2020 will be binding domestically, and that the government would also focus on implementing specific programs to meet it. He argued a carbon intensity goal is the best way to measure progress on climate change mitigation for a country in the midst of rapid industrialization and urbanization.
Improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon intensity in the power sector have been major goals for the Chinese government. This trend contrasts with the United States, where new coal-fired power plants built in the 1980s and 1990s were actually less efficient than those built in the 1970s. While China is still increasing its overall electricity output at a rapid rate - slightly more than one power plant per week - new power plants both add to capacity and replace less efficient, smaller power plants and direct (and very dirty) coal-burning at industrial sites.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission’s “Top 1,000 Enterprises Program” is central to its efforts to reduce national energy intensity by 20 percent. Established in its current form in 2006, this program imposes a significant portion of the overall 20 percent energy intensity target directly on China’s 1,000 largest state-owned enterprises, most of which are in heavy industry (see figure). In 2005 the enterprises in the program accounted for at least 33 percent of total primary energy demand and 47 percent of industrial energy demand. The program met its goals in the first year, achieving the full 20 percent of its five-year target and actually exceeded its targets in 2007.
American manufacturers fear that the imbalances created by aggressive climate policy in the United States could contribute significantly to the “offshore-ing” of jobs and relocation of industry to countries with lower standards and production costs.
For most U.S. industries, these fears are overstated and limited to industries where energy and fossil fuels are a large portion of their cost structures and where those industries participate in global markets. In industries such as transportation equipment and electronics manufacturing, energy accounts for less than one percent of total production costs. In fact, industries are more likely to be impacted by fluctuations in currency exchange rates or national differences in tax and transportation costs. Carbon regulation compliance costs are likely to be insignificant to global competitiveness of these industries.