A Birthday Wish List: China's Climate Challenge and the Next 60 Years

Posted by Julian L. / on 10/02/2009 / 0 Comments

by Julian L. Wong

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/09/prc_anniversary.html

This week 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 combustions, will in turn choke off agricultural productivity, threatening future food supplies.

This food-water-energy "trilemma" will threaten physical security and disrupt economic and social stability, which is the very foundation of the China Communist Party's authority. Beijing fully grasps these implications and has turned its stance from one of climate denier to that of an emerging frontrunner in climate action in just a few years. Few noticed in 2007 when President Hu Jintao espoused the goal of creating an "ecological civilization" that strikes harmony between man and nature. It would be easy to chalk this up as just another example of the central government's colorful slogans. Yet, action has followed rhetoric.

China has embarked on some of the world's most aggressive energy efficiency, renewable energy development and reforestation programs through its landmark National Climate Change Program of 2007. Over the five-year period ending 2010, it plans to reduce its energy consumption per unit of its gross domestic product by 20 percent, obtain 10 percent of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower, and bulk up its carbon sinks by increasing forest cover to 20 percent.

What's more, President Hu has just announced intentions for China to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP from 2005 levels by a "notable margin" by 2020. Recognizing the strategic job-creating opportunities of innovating, manufacturing, deploying and disseminating the clean-energy technologies of the future, President Hu also pledged to transform China into a "green economy, low-carbon economy and circular economy."

China's tide of Western-style development will still be difficult to stem. When I visited Beijing earlier this month with a delegation from the Center for American Progress, both State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua of the National Reform and Development Commission assured us that China would not take the traditional energy-intensive development path. Yet even with its lofty green goals, it is difficult to imagine how it has not already.

China is already the world's biggest market for building construction and automobile sales. This situation is unlikely to change. China is witnessing the largest scale of human migration in the history of civilization, with 350 million rural residents moving to the city by 2030. And this urbanization is coming with a shift in emphasis from exports to domestic consumption as an engine of future economic growth.

China will have to take at least three major steps to truly develop a green, low-carbon and circular economy:

1. Show bold, visionary leadership to set China on a long-term path to reduce absolute emissions, not just emissions per unit of GDP.

China believes that the West needs to take the lead to solve the problem that it created when it comes to climate change and emissions reductions. This position is understandable, but China must acknowledge that in reality it cannot wait for others to look out for what is in its own interests. World leaders continue to work out the complex structures for international climate financing and technology transfer, while the science urgently requires a collective reduction in emissions as soon as possible. If China is serious about its July commitment to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, it has to follow up on recent indications of willingness to act by accordingly fixing a future date and level at which its carbon emissions peak and subsequently decline.

2. Develop tools to help the country achieve this bold new vision.

China needs to continue to strengthen its accountability mechanisms and create channels for increased information flow to ensure that its national plans are implemented locally. The government can meaningfully engage and mobilize civil society groups as partners, rather than treat them as annoyances, to facilitate the measurable, reportable, and verifiable implementation of government actions. Such partnerships might include crafting purposeful campaigns targeted at the business community and citizens to educate them about the comprehensive benefits of creating a clean energy economy. The central government has already demonstrated progress in these areas by, for instance, increasing penalties for false statistical reporting and enacting a law on open government information, but it can do more.

3. Collaborate with the international community in a comprehensive manner.

Cooperation with the international community should not focus merely on joint research, development, and deployment on important carbon abatement technologies. China and the United States, for instance, can enhance trading relationships and unlock vast, lucrative markets for technology commercialization in both countries by coordinating on reducing barriers to market access, such as high tariffs on clean-energy technologies and restrictive foreign investment policies. Jointly building capacity for real-time emissions, monitoring and reporting, and enhancing efforts in energy modeling and simulation can greatly inform energy and climate policymakers. Climate collaboration opportunities exist even on the military-to-military level-coordination in disaster relief activities and in addressing other non-traditional security threats posed by climate change can yield mutually beneficial learning and capacity-building results.

Addressing climate change will be the fundamental challenge for China over its next 60 years. It will give China an opportunity to combine central elements of its historical development-a new low-carbon vision that is revolutionary in its transformation, but also pragmatic in its approach to enable a real and measurable low-carbon reform. The best birthday gift the international community can give to China is to walk with it hand-in-hand down this low-carbon path through the adoption of robust domestic climate measures and by forging ahead to build consensus on a sound global climate deal at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen and beyond.

中国生日之愿
黄立安

http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/3270-A-birthday-wish-list

这周,中华人民共和国迎来她60周年的生日庆典。如果说前30年是一部革命史,中国经历了一个又一个血淋淋的内部斗争,那么后30年则明显可以看出实用主义的痕迹。这场经济和社会的改革,为中国创造了前所未有的经济增长成果。

然而今天,中国走到了十字路口。国家历尽千辛走上了全球超级大国的地位,随之而的却是巨大的、结构性的资源危机。中国正面临着能源、水和粮食安全的三重挑战,而气候变化正是三者共同的关键词。

以能源为例,中国巨大经济成就的背后,依靠的是对煤炭的过度开采和石油需求的不断扩张,而这同时也导致了温室气体排放的大幅上升。气候变化改变了降水模式,致使一些区域洪灾不断,另一大部分地区却极度干旱。许多内陆地区不仅面临着水资源缺乏问题,还要承受矿物燃料燃烧带来的酸雨。农业生产力严重受挫,也因此对未来的粮食供应构成威胁。

食物,水和能源的三重矛盾危及人民的人身安全,阻碍经济发展,破坏社会稳定,而这些因素都是中国共产党执政的基础。北京政府充分展现了其对气候变化产生影响的重视,短短几年间,中国从消极对待气候问题一跃成为气候行动的先驱。或许鲜有人注意到,早在2007 年,国家主席胡锦涛就提出要打建人与自然和谐相处的生态文明。如果这个倡议只是美化中央政府形象的一句口号则另当别论,但我们看到,中国确实在行动。

自2007年发表里程碑式的《气候变化国家方案》起,中国在全球最炙手可热的能源效益、可再生能源开发和再造林项目取得了卓越成就。在2006至2010年的五年之间,中国计划减少百分之二十的国内生产总值单位耗能;非矿石燃料占主要能源的比例将提升百分之十,其中包括风能、太阳能和水电资源。同时,提高百分之二十的森林覆盖率,以更好的吸收碳排放。

此外,胡锦涛主席刚刚宣布了新的目标,即中国将争取到2020年每单位国内生产总值的二氧化碳排放,比2005年有"显著下降"。意识到能源战略在未来能为清洁能源的创新,生产,部署和宣传创造大量机会,胡锦涛主席还承诺将为中国打造"绿色经济、低碳经济、循环经济"。

中国西方模式的发展势头是难以遏制的。本月初访问北京的时候,我代表美国进步中心会见了两位人大代表戴秉国和解振华,后者同时身兼国家发改委副主席。他们明确地告诉我,中国不会走传统的能源密集型发展道路。有卓见的绿色目标固然是好事,但我们还没看到中国真正将之贯彻落实。

中国目前已成为世界最大的建筑和汽车销售市场,这样的发展态势不会逆转。在中国,3.5亿的农村居民将在2030年前转移到城市,这是人类文明史上最大规模的人口迁徙。城市化将带动国内消费增长,同时伴随着未来经济发展以出口为重的转型。

要真正实现绿色、低碳和循环经济,中国将至少需要完成以下三个主要步骤:

其一,展现具有魄力,富有远见的领导力,设计长期、切实的减排目标,而不仅仅着眼于每单位国内生产总值二氧化碳排放量的下降。

中国认为,西方国家需要带头解决最早由他们制造的气候变化和碳排放问题。这一立场虽在情理之中,但中国必须意识到,没有时间再等待别的国家为自身利益举棋不定了。诚然世界各国的领导人会继续想方设法,为国际气候资金和技术的转移找一条出路,但当务之急是要尽早达成集体性的减排协议。假设中国在七月做出的限制全球温度上升2摄氏度的承诺是真诚的,那么他就必须遵循诺言,为减排制定有明确期限和标准的碳排放峰值目标。

其二,完善有助国家实现宏伟目标的机制。

中国需要继续完善问责机制,为信息流通开辟渠道,以确保其国家计划能在地方得到执行。政府可以有意识的加强与民间团体的合作,动员他们携手参与,而不要把他们看作障碍。如此一来,政府的执行力度则能达到"可测量、可报告和可核查"的要求。这种合作可以从以商业人士和市民为主的民间活动发起,提升这些群体对清洁能源综合经济效益的认识。中央政府已经在这些领域取得了进展,如严惩上报虚假统计数据,制定政府信息公开法规等。然而仅此还不能服众,他们还能做的更多。

其三,加强与国际社会的全面合作。

与国际社会合作不应只强调共同研究、开发和部署重要的碳减排技术。以中美关系为例,两国应加强贸易关系,为各自技术市场开拓更广阔的商业前景。比如降低市场准入门槛,尤其是针对清洁能源技术的高关税及对外国投资的限制政策。携手打造实时碳排放容量机制,监测并报告,同时努力共建能广泛被能源和气候政策制定者接受的能源模式和方案。气候合作的机会甚至还存在于军事领域,协调救灾活动,处理其他由气候变化引发的非传统安全问题等。合作能让彼此互相学习,自我强化,最终实现双赢。

应对气候变化是中国未来60年将面对的最重要挑战。它能在这场历史性改革中集合关键因素,帮助中国完成低碳经济的转型。它同时也代表了推动真实并更可测的低碳改革方针的实用精神。国际社会能赠予中国最好的生日礼物,莫过于一道采取有力措施应对气候变化,与之携手走向低碳之路,在哥本哈根联合国气候变化会议上,以开拓进取的精神,就建设完善的全球气候协议达成共识。

 

 

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