Global Trends by
Monday, 27 June 2011
Towards green low-carbon growth?
A conference last
week in Beijing heard plans by China
and other counties for achieving green low-carbon development to combat
climate change. Despite an upbeat mood, the difficulties are many and
Despite the slow progress
in the global climate negotiations, some developing countries are already
taking their own climate actions to reduce emissions and adapt to the
effects of climate change.
Of course, their actions will fall far short of what is required, unless
the funds and technology expected as a result from the global talks
materialize. And unless the developed countries also cut their emissions
greatly and leave more “carbon space” to the developing countries.
The Chinese government organized a conference on “green low-carbon development”
on 22-24 June, bringing together international and local experts with
national and provincial policy makers.
hosted this event itself was significant, as it is the largest developing
country in both population and economic size. It has also become one
of the two largest Greenhouse Gas emitting countries in the world.
But as pointed out at the conference, China is still a middle-income developing
country, ranked rather average among developing countries in both per
capita income and per capita emissions.
Nevertheless, the spotlight has very much been on China, not least because its high
economic growth on top of its economic weight means that what happens
in the country has a significant impact on global climate change.
The conference was meant to open China’s plans for scrutiny and comments.
The list of actions being planned is impressive. As enumerated by Ms.
Sun Cui Hua, Deputy Director-General of the Climate Change Department
of the National Development and Reform Commission, these included ten
The first was implementing climate change macro policies. The targets
in the recently unveiled 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) include:
● Non-fossil fuel to account for 11.4 percent of primary energy consumption;
● Cut by 30% of water consumption per unit of value-added
● 16% reduction in energy consumption per unit of GDP.
cut in Carbon dioxide emission per unit of GDP (en route to the pledged
goal of 40-45% reduction by 2020 compared to 2005).
coverage rate to rise to 21.66 percent and forest stock to increase
by 600 million cubic meters.
Not mentioned by Ms.
Sun, but which will have equally important implications is the new 7%
average annual GDP growth target for the 2011-15 period. This is a
reduction from the annual growth of 10-plus percent per year that China
has been used to.
A cut by 3 to 4 percentage points in GDP growth will in itself mean
a large reduction in emissions growth, on top of the cuts in emissions
intensity of GDP.
Other policies or actions announced by Ms Sun included:
a fund in China
to finance its climate actions.
low-carbon pilot projects in selected cities and provinces.
market mechanisms including new conditions for enterprises, and a pilot
programme on emissions trading.
low carbon certification system to identify industries and products
and encourage upgrading of enterprises.
an inventory of greenhouse gases, including building the capacity of
local governments and having a guidebook for enterprises.
legislation to accompany the policy measures
and campaigns for low-carbon lifestyles.
international cooperation through exchanges and South-South cooperation.
policy measures in various sectors and improving forecasting and early
warning for extreme weather events.
Environment Ministry Director General Corrado Clini said other countries
should learn from China in prioritizing
low-carbon technologies. China had become the leader in investments for
low-carbon technologies, spending US$34 bil in 2010 compared to USA ($17 bil), UK
($12 bil), Spain
($11 bil), Brazil ($8 bil), Germany
($4 bil) and Canada
Data on recent performance in China’s
energy and emissions were given by Wang Zhongmin of the China Institute
of Standardization, who said that energy consumption per unit of GDP
fell by a total of 19% in the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-11).
Energy use per unit of copper smelting dropped 36% and per ton of cement
by 29%, while backward enterprises and technologies had been closed
During the period, the energy conserved was more than 600 million tons
of standard coal, which meant there was an accumulated reduction of
carbon dioxide by over 1.5 billion tons.
climate policy was presented by Jurgen Lefevere of the European Commission
who said that the EU countries had decoupled emissions from GDP growth,
as domestic emissions had fallen 16% while GDP grew 40% between 1990
He reiterated the EU target of 20 to 30 per cent emissions reduction
by 2020 (compared to 1990) with a reduction of 80-95% by 2050 through
a road map that includes emission reduction plans for various sectors,
the use of key technologies and investments.
The EC had identified additional investments (needed for climate change
actions) of Euro 270 bil a year in 2010-50. This would be more than
offset by benefits, including fuel-saving of Euro 175-320 bil a year;
halving of imports by 2050, reducing the bill in that year by Euro 400
bil; and health benefits of Euro 88 bil a year in 2050, and 1.5 million
net jobs created in 2020.
Despite the positive domestic plans by China
and the message from Europe that decoupling
growth and emissions is possible, experts also highlighted the huge
challenges facing developing countries in reducing their emissions growth
while maintaining their ambition of high economic growth.
Some developed countries had not even got their “decoupling” act together
yet, as their emissions have continued to climb.
For developing countries, who also have to battle not only poverty but
the increased effects of climate change (such as floods, drought and
hurricanes), moving into action to cut emissions will be difficult.
This is where the global climate negotiations come in. They have to
deliver huge emission cuts in developed countries and provide sufficient
funds and technologies to developing countries so that they have the
atmospheric space and the resources to do their own decoupling of emissions
from economic development.
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