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A new approach at Copenhagen (2)

Hu Angang

Readinch

China must achieve and improve on its energy-saving targets in order to realise low-carbon development, writes Hu Angang in the second section of a three-part essay.

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[Produced in association with Rutgers Climate and Social Policy Initiative]

China has set very challenging targets on reducing energy use and emissions. The eleventh Five-Year Plan, which runs from 2006 to 2010, aims to reduce energy intensity (energy consumption per unit of GDP) by 20%, the equivalent of reducing energy consumption from 1.22 tonnes to 0.97 tonnes of coal per 10,000 yuan of GDP. Even if China were to continue its 10% annual GDP growth, seen during the tenth Five Year Plan, energy consumption can only grow by 5.2% a year. However, the figures for 2006 and 2007 show this will be no easy task. The European Union gave itself a similar target, but has until 2020 to achieve it.

However, there are signs of change as energy consumption and release of major pollutants in China start to drop, laying a foundation for a new phase. In 2006 and 2007, energy intensity dropped by 1.23% and 3.2% respectively, the first drop for years. In 2007, SO2 emissions and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) dropped by 4.66% and 3.14% respectively.

Generally speaking, there is a delay from the adoption of a policy to seeing its effects. The locked-in effects of existing infrastructure mean this is especially true in this area of policy. It is no surprise that the targets have been missed these past two years.

There is a historical precedent for a large drop in China’s energy consumption. During the sixth Five-Year Plan, energy intensity dropped by 5.2% per year on average; by 5.7% during the eighth Five-Year Plan; and by 8% during the ninth. Therefore, an average annual drop of 5.4% between 2008 and 2010 is possible. Although the task is hard because of the level of economic development, industrial structure, urbanisation and trade patterns, the unprecedented international environment, political will and economic investment makes it possible. China is capable of achieving its energy saving targets in the eleventh Five-Year Plan and beyond.

The target is not simply economic; it is a political commitment by the government to its citizens – and to the world. It indicates China’s political will and its commitment to reducing emissions, meeting the challenges of climate change and developing a low-carbon economy. This target is the first step on the road to a low-carbon economy, and it is of greater political than economic significance.

However, China’s international emissions reduction policy is not in step with the world. China is still considered a developing country, with no emissions reduction responsibilities, commitments or contributions toward meeting an international consensus.

A public commitment to reduce emissions, backed by central government targets, would be a massive spur to domestic emissions cuts. Participation in international climate-change negotiations and adopting climate-change regulations can provide the opportunity to implement of a beneficial energy and climate policy. More importantly, worsening climate change will increase the pressure to cut emissions. Failure to change energy and climate policy will mean choosing to fight over resources.

In the long term, a commitment to reduce emissions is in accord with the Chinese government’s ideas of scientific development and ecological civilisation. Its implications, targets and processes are exactly those needed to ensure national energy security, address climate change and establish a resource-saving and environmentally-friendly society.

Currently the road map for global emissions reductions is clear:
•By 2020 carbon dioxide emissions should have peaked;
•By 2030 there should be annual emissions of less than 35 billion tonnes;
•By 2050 there should be annual emissions of less than 20 billion tonnes.

A Chinese road map should mirror this three-step process:
•By 2020 carbon dioxide emissions should have peaked;
•By 2030 there should be annual emissions of less than 2.2 billion tonnes (a reduction to 1990 levels).
•By 2050 there should be annual emissions of less than 1.1 billion tonnes (half of 1990 levels).

Undertaking these commitments is a major strategic decision that will impact on China’s long-term development. It is a question of whether China’s national interests are the same as those of human development.

An undertaking to reduce emissions raises two questions: what to commit to; and how to achieve it. The decisions made by Chinese politicians today will set the direction for development in the future.

In 1987 a similar plan was proposed by Deng Xiaoping: first, tto double the 1980 gross national product (GNP) and ensure adequate food and clothing for people, a goal that has already been achieved; second, to double 1980 GNP by the end of the century, and achieve a “relatively good” standard of living; third, by the middle of the twenty-first century to have per-capita GNP at that of “intermediate-level” developed countries, to be modernised and for people to be “relatively well-off”. In response to doubts, Deng said it may be necessary to rely on the greater intelligence of future generations. It now appears that all of these goals were realistic. 

China’s current leaders should take a leaf out of Deng’s book: identify the strategic direction and trust that future generations will be wiser. The  leaders themselves will only be in power for a decade at most; it is neither feasible nor necessary for them to reach the goals they set. Completion will take several generations. All that is needed now is the commitment.

Since 1750, the world has seen four industrial revolutions. First, the Industrial Revolution in Britain, in which China played no part. Then the industrialisation of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, in which China also missed out. In the late twentieth century, information technology changed the world, and this time China seized its opportunity.

With the advent of the new century a change has arrived in the form of the green industrial revolution. China missed out on the first two revolutions and was only a follower in the third, but it can be the leader, innovator and driver of the fourth, alongside the United States, Japan and the EU.

We can expect climate change to form the domestic and international backdrop for China’s future development. Against this backdrop, the Chinese leadership faces two pressing questions: how to transform China’s economy into a low-carbon economy; and how to participate in global governance, moving from national to regional and worldwide governance.

There is no doubt about the direction the tide is flowing. We can ride the wave and prosper, or fight the flow and be pulled under. China’s leaders must realise this and fall in line with global proposals.

NEXT: China’s contribution to the world


Hu Angang is one of China’s best-known economists. He is professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University and the director of the Centre for China Study, a leading policy think-tank. Hu has worked as the chief editor for China Studies Report, a circulated reference for senior officials.

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Homepage photo by kongharald

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哥本哈根,没戏

节能减排难不难,我看不难。咱们中国人大部分用上太阳能,一部分风能,不就可以解决大部分减排的目标了?把咱们国家每年出口的16亿只节能灯装在自己家里,洗衣机电冰箱电视全用上节能型的,电机用最好的,节能减排很容易啊。可是,谁来出这个钱,这个多出来的钱呢?所以,节能减排是个经济学问题,很大程度上不是技术问题,技术咱们大部分都有。但是这个帐很难算,就是干这样的事,对我们国家的利益,人民的利益,发展的利益究竟有没有好处,净收益多大,这个投资多长时间能收回来,这个我们需要下大力气,尽快研究,解决。我们国家现在还是犹豫不决,因为看不透这个问题,不知道怎么办。不管你是向发达国家讨说法,算老帐也好,还是联合发展中国家不认账也好,都不是长久之计。即使今年哥本哈根达不成协议,我看这种机会很大,我们也需要面对这样的现实,就是我们迟早都要承担绝对减排量这个责任。当然了,那总要等到我们国家足够富裕了以后。不过,那个时候再来承担责任的时候我敢说,代价会比现在高得多的多。鞍钢同志说得太宏观,我觉得这个承诺到底包括什么,需要说得具体一点。我们千万不能被2008年中国的大幅度节能所迷惑,那不过是由于经济危机导致的工业生产活动减弱造成的短暂假象,不是因为我们节能工作取得的多么大的突破带来的必然结果。但是,问题在于,工业产出的下降速度大于节能的成就,说明这么个问题,就是我们的节能实际上是倒退了,而不是进步了。就拿今年前两个月来说,工业用电大幅下降,但是第一和第三产业用电还在增长,你能说我们的用电效率大幅提高了嘛,反而是下降了!我们不能被表面现象迷惑啊。说得重一点,节能是对我们民族智慧的考验,不是计划生育,我们一声令下就全国开展起来的。我们需要全民动员,找出我们复兴的机会。既然别人那么大力提倡节能减排,总有别人的道理,世界上没有傻子,也没有真正的雷锋。这个道理到底是什么,就是仁者见仁,智者见智了。

Copenhagen: a lost cause

I think saving energy is not difficult. We, the Chinese people, mostly use solar energy, and use some wind energy. Isn’t that enough to achieve most of the reduction targets? If we put the 1,600,000,000 exported compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) in our own houses, along with the washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, and other top notch energy saving models, saving energy would be very easy. But who will pay for it, and who will pay extra for it? Therefore, saving energy to reduce emissions is an economic issue, and to a large extent is not a technological issue. We mostly have the technology. However, it’s very difficult to balance this account. Doing things in this way, it would benefit our country and our people. Ultimately, are there really benefits to development? Figuring out how much profit is necessary, and how long it will take for an investment to pay off is something we need to make an effort to study harder and to solve as quickly as possible. Our country is still hesitant because we can’t solve this problem, so we don’t know what to do. No matter from which developed country speaking style you use, no matter whether you say calculating old debts is good or lumping together developing countries and saying they are not admitting to their faults is good, it still isn’t a long time to calculate. Even if Copenhagen doesn’t come to an agreement this year, I can see that this kind of meeting is tremendous, and we do need to face this kind of reality. Sooner or later we will all need to fully assume our responsibility to reduce emissions. Of course, that always needs to wait until our country has accumulated enough wealth. But at that time, I think that assuming our responsibility will cost far more than it would right now. Comrade Angang (the author) uses too wide of a focus, I think it is unclear what this undertaking ultimately includes, and we need to be a little more specific. We the millions should not be confused by the huge margin of energy savings made by China in 2008; that was only because of the economic crisis which caused production to slack off, which created a temporary facade. They were not because we achieved a huge breakthrough in our energy saving efforts which inevitably caused such an outcome. However, in relation to this question, if the rate of decrease in production is faster than the rate of energy saving accomplishments, then it totally proves this point: our energy saving appliances are falling back, and are not making progress. Just take the first two months of this year. Energy usage by the industries decreased substantially; however the first and third sectors of the economy increased their energy usage. Can you say that our energy usage has become increased in efficiency instead of decreased in efficiency? We cannot be confused by surface appearances. More importantly, energy saving puts our indigenous wisdom to the test, not the one child policy. We started to develop at the first sounding of the bell. We need to mobilize the entire population and find an opportunity to rejuvenate ourselves. Even though others strongly advocate saving energy to reduce admissions, they are always using other people’s logic. In this world there are no fools and no Lei Fengs (ideal communists who serve their country). What is this reasoning, ultimately? Everyone sees what they want. (Translated by Michelle Deeter)


由于不景气或是政策成功实施废弃排放减少

经济不景气对工业国包括中国废气排放的影响将会被政治家用作显示他们“绿色政策”的成功推行。工业由中国迁往更清洁国家可能会影响到中国。一定要使那些持久性排放物急剧下降,尤其是从燃煤的发电厂排放出来的,因为这些排放物没有满足约束的规格;或者是由森林转变为种植园或其他农业经济而带来的的排放。这么做将显示出政府推行该政策的诚意和效力。

本评论由陈丽英翻译

Emissions reduction due to recession or policy success

The impact of recession on the emissions of industrial countries - including China - will be used by politicians to demonstrate the success of their green policies.

China might also be affected by the re-location of industries from China to cleaner countries.

Steep reductions in emissions from persistent sources of emissions must be made, particularly those (a) from coal-fired power stations which do not meet legally binding specifications for emissions, and (b) caused by the conversion of forest (especially that on peat) to plantations or other agribusiness. Doing so would demonstrate the sincerity and effectiveness of government policies.


理念很好啊!

学者的理念很好啊。
可全球气候变化的筹码到底有多大呢?
谁能够推动这场绿色变革呢?到底由谁推动最有效呢。

Fantastic ideas!

This academic's ideas are really fantastic. However, how many eggs are we to put in the global climate change basket? Who can drive the green revolution into effect? And who will be the best promoter of it?
(translated by diaoshuhuan)


绿色崛起

文中作者的意思是要中国抓住绿色工业革命的机会崛起,从此踏入世界治理的舞台。从历史发展角度来说,这是一个难得的机会,民族的复兴在望,但恐怕掌握不好的话,复兴无望,还要栽个跟头。所谓的绿色工业革命是不是一个机会还要深思

The Rise of Green

The writer of the article wants China to seize the opportunity in taking part in the rise of the Green Industrial Revolution, and from here enter the world stage. Speaking from a historical angle, this is a difficult opportunity to obtain. Civilian revival is in sight, but if they are too afraid to take control the revival will have no future and will fall flat. The so-called Green Industrial Revolution is an opportunity we must still reflect on.

This article was translated by Kate Truax.


需要实事求是

在支持自己的建议时,需要实事求是。作者说,“目前,全球减排的路线图已经非常明确”。不知这个已经“明确”的路线图从何而来?是谁制定的?联合国谈判中还在进行中,IPCC也没有给。不知从何而来?
按照作者的意思,中国可以先承诺,再行动。现在的领导人只管承诺,不管能不能做得到,反正自己已经不在位了。撇开公平不谈。首先,不分析可能性就承诺,本身就是不负责任的。其次,这种心态要不的。“我死后,哪管它洪水滔天”。提的专家可以很潇洒地不管,负责任的政府必须管。哪里热门往哪里去是可以的,但基本的功课还是要做的,研究者更是如此。

We need to seek truth from facts

When supporting one's arguments, one needs to seek truth from facts. The author stated that "Currently the road map for global emissions reductions is clear". I am not sure where this "clear" map comes from. Who made it? The negotiations in the United Nations is still in process, and IPCC has not offered any map. Where exactly does this map come from?

According to the author, it seems that China can make a commitment first, and then start actions later. The current leaders may only make promises without even considering the possibilities of keeping them, as they will not be in office by then. Fairness aside, it is already irresponsible to make a promise without analysing its feasibility. Secondly, this way of thinking is not to be tolerated: "After me, the flood". The experts who made the proposal may not care about the result, but a responsible government must. It is OK to go for the hot subjects, but one must do some basic homework. This is even truer for researchers.


直觉和自觉

我们很多人凭直觉评论,不自觉减排。我们很多专家,要么是知名经济学家,要么是不知名但是想知名的经济学家和学者,但现实是,我们需要气候经济学家,还要经验丰富的,知名的。可惜,我们没有。所以,都是瞎谈,凑热闹。就是有100万个跟帖,也解决不了任何问题。谈判的成员到底是谁我们都不知道。

Instinct and Consciousness

Many of us criticise instinctively, but don't consciously reduce our emissions. We have many experts, whether they are famous economists or unknown ones who want to be famous, but in reality we need climate economists who are experienced and famous. Unfortunately, we don't have them. So, all the discussion is nonsense. Even one million comments won't solve any problems. We even don't know who the members of the discussion are.


回“直觉和自觉”一评论

你说的挺对的,搞清楚到底是什么人在参与讨论会有所帮助,不过我并不认同说这样的谈论毫无重点。我们并没有要求评论者必须表明他们的身份,但如果他们愿意的话,中外对话的编辑队伍肯定欢迎至极,当然包括评论6的作者。——伊莎贝尔·希尔顿Isabel Hilton
(translated by diaoshuhuan)

re Instinct and Consciousness

You are right that it would be good to know who is posting in this discussion, though I do not agree that discussion is pointless. We do not require contributors to sign their comments, but the editorial team at chinadialogue would certainly welcome it if they did, including, of course, the author of comment number 6

Isabel Hilton


给Isabel的话

我真正想要说的是,我们对于出席波恩、哥本哈根或者其他的国家气候变化会议的代表团成员完全不知情。正因为如此,我很想知道他们都是谁,他们是否有资格代表国家发言。和往常一样,翻译上出现了一大堆问题。而在今天的中国,翻译是最最重要的事情。
(translated by diaoshuhuan)

Message to Isabel

What I have actually meant above is that we even don't know who are the members in our national climate change delegate in Bonn and Copenhagen or anywhere.That is why I am curious who are they, are they qualified enough to speak on behalf of the state. There are many mistakes of the translation, as always. And translation is above all the most serious issue today in China.


为了看着好看而伪造

能源工业的内部人士都知道在过去的三年中许多企业都在能源效率提升方面都有伪造。我们已经准备好一切包括能量守恒定律,还有我们在全国范围执行对消耗能源大户的能源审核,例如,任何一个总的消耗超过10,000二乙双酮的公司。突然间许多能源审核的公司迅速成长起来,也通过审核服务赚了不少钱,价格差不多是每件案子50,000人民币,而这种价位是远低于西方公司的标准,但是对于中国公司而言已经是可观的利润了。唯一一年危害到每年的能源节约目标就是2008年。很大程度上是由于制造业经济的衰退,而不是因为我们在能源效率方面取得了什么重大的成绩。从这个角度来看,仍然有可疑之处,不能因为我们在第一个五年计划中有强制的能源计划-20%的节约,我们就此得出结论我们也可以在国际范围内强制减少排放。这就是说我们不能用任何手段推行这一目标。更糟糕的是,我恐怕.....

本评论由陈丽英翻译

Cook the book to look good

It is known to energy industry insiders that many firms have cooked their books to look good in regard to energy efficiency improvements in the past 3 years. We have almost everything in place including the Energy Conservation Law and we have enforced a nation-wide energy audit of large energy consumers, for example any firm with a total consumption exceeding 10,000 TOCE. Suddenly a lot of energy auditing firms sprung up and made a fortune by auditing service, with a price roughly 50,000RMB per case, which is much much lower in western standard but huge profitable for these Chinese firms. The only year that actually hit the annual energy reduction target is the year 2008, and it is largely due to the economic recession in the manufacturing sectors, not because we have significant achievements on the energy efficiency part. By this sense it is also dubious that as we have the mandatory energy targets during the 11th 5-year plan which is a 20% reduction,yet we can not come to the conclusion that we can have a mandatory emission reduction for the international community. It means we actually can not deliver that target in whatever means. And what is worse, I am afraid that the....


意见

我想上面评论者的意思是中国节约能源法而不是能量守恒定律吧。那个定律是普遍使用的...

An Opinion

I think that the meaning of the commentator above is that China's economic energy laws isn't actually about energy conservation laws. That law is for universal use...
(Translated by Braden Latham-Jones.)


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