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“China is on the right track”

How has the country’s low-carbon path developed – and what lies in its future? chinadialogue spoke to Wu Changhua, director for Greater China at the Climate Group.

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Wu Changhua is Greater China director at the Climate Group, leading their operations and strategic development across the region. She was previously the executive director of China operations for environmental consultants ENSR, where she worked closely with multinational corporations to support their business development in China and their compliance with Chinese regulations.

Wu directed the programme for China studies at the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC. She has also consulted for transnational organisations, such as the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations Development Programme. She has been a fellow of World Press Institute and fellow of the Temple Law School’s US-China roundtable on environmental law and policy. Wu holds two graduate degrees, one in law from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the other in environmental policy from University of Maryland.

chinadialogue (cd): The Climate Group’s two annual China’s Clean Revolution reports have described great successes and a bright future for China’s low-carbon economy. However, many believe that China’s low-carbon economy faces a difficult future. How do you reconcile these standpoints?

Wu Changhua (WC): I think the prospects are good. There is an international trend towards low-carbon development, so we are on the right track. Despite the economic crisis, China is sticking to its policy of developing the low-carbon economy – and you have to acknowledge the wisdom of China’s policy-makers there.

China’s new energy sector has recently shown some signs of over-expansion, such as duplicated investment, and there has been controversy over this. But we should look past those questions and ask why this is happening. For example, both China and the United States view solar cell technology as crucial. In the US, the government funds just a few companies: the clear leaders in the field. But in China, local interests mean funding is spread across many local firms; hence there is the repeated development of low-end technology. That has led to great losses and left some investors stumped. But the solution here is for the government to put things in order, not just to slam on the brakes.

In fact, our research uncovered a number of problems at Chinese firms. But we concluded that the overall trend, at home and abroad, has not changed. As the problems increase in number and size, so do the opportunities for development. These issues urgently need solving: there’s a huge potential market for Chinese firms there.

These issues are a reminder to policy-makers and to others. Even if we become a global leader, China’s low-carbon development will not be quick – and we are unlikely to lead on the world stage if we do not solve the many issues within our own borders. That reminder is a good thing, although we should not be overly cautious.

China’s circumstances mean that our foundations are not great; these issues are part of an inevitable process of exploration. Sometimes you need to knock into some walls before you find your way.

cd: During the low-carbon cities project, which the Climate Group organised this year, what was the attitude of local government and businesses towards the development of the low-carbon economy?

WC: We chose six Chinese cities in which to run demonstration projects aimed at solving local issues. The solar-powered LED lighting project in Guiyang, in Guizhou province, is underway. When Tony Blair and Jet Li visited in August it was already operating at scale. Preparations are underway for electric vehicle and green building projects in nine cities.

We were very encouraged by positive attitudes to low-carbon cities, both from local government and businesses. They are aware of energy-saving and emissions-reduction issues, and they proposed a lot of good measures. But sometimes they are a bit over-enthusiastic: some see excellent prospects for new energy and want to develop in this direction, so they fund projects blindly, regardless of whether the research-and-development capability or core technologies are in place. One energy-saving lighting company was somehow invited to install lighting for eight streets, but no data was gathered, the quality was not checked and once they were installed they were just left there. Ma Lun of Beijing Vantone Real Estate is another example: he is very keen on green issues and used lots of foreign environmental technology in his buildings, but it became over-complicated, and the residents don't actually know how to use it.

It is still a step forward – the importance of low-carbon development is being recognised; they are very quickly learning how to research markets and make improvements. Shanghai has been working on a new energy plan for the twelfth Five-Year Plan, and they’ve realised that they need to focus their efforts on areas where they have an advantage, and there is a huge emphasis on proprietary innovation.

cd: What are the differences in awareness and action across different types of businesses?

WC: There’s no absolute way to classify this, but broadly speaking, the large, state-owned enterprises are already operating in international markets, so they are further ahead in terms of awareness on carbon emissions. Although China hasn’t yet committed to absolute reductions, these firms have made the necessary preparations – although they don’t publicise it at home.

We have also seen more carbon-aware entrepreneurs come out of the private sector in recent years. They may not be completely aware of the policy environment at home and abroad, but they give some thought to their low-carbon development strategy. Some of these are low-carbon firms: Broad Air, Suntech and Goldwind, for example – and they are proactive in pushing forward national low-carbon strategy and lobbying for policy support. Some property firms, such as China Vanke and Vantone, also promote green building, but China’s policies and standards aren’t yet in place.

Big purchasers, such as Walmart, have also started to play an incredibly important role in China’s low-carbon development. Some firms in their supply chains have already started to take action, but it’s hard to do that across the whole supply chain. Local governments want to provide jobs and increase GDP, so they sometimes use a light hand in supervision.

Unfortunately, some multinationals make use of China’s weak legislation and regulations to do as little as possible in this area, often operating double standards. The overall direction of low-carbon development among Chinese firms is excellent, but we need to know what our limitations are.

cd: What expectations do you have for climate-change conference in Copenhagen? What impact will there be on China?

WC: There’s not much chance of a miracle. US president Barack Obama’s administration is under pressure; he has little political capital left. They are unlikely to take the risk of concrete commitments at Copenhagen.

Personally, considering what is actually feasible, I think an agreement is possible. It should include several mechanisms: in particular, a financial mechanism – this is key. It is hard to say on technology transfer: I hope to see some feasible operating mechanisms come out of that. As for adaptation funds, the developed nations must make quantified commitments.

China has already done much more on climate change than the international community expected, and they can relax in the run-up to, and during, the Copenhagen meeting. All it has to do is explain what it has already done.

The real pressure on China is what to do after Copenhagen. Whatever agreement is reached, we still need to come back home and solve some real problems – area by area, company by company, as we map out a low-carbon path for China.

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匿名 | Anonymous




Translated By: Fan Yu

Financial mechanisms are not the answer

Financial mechanisms such as those which provide a licence to pollute are the opposite of what is so urgently needed - a world which has "decarbpnised".

Further, much of the money which those mechanisms would involve is likely to be used up in transaction costs - particularly in the sort of high risk country that is demanding money from industrialised countries in return for compliance at Copenhagen instead of insisting that those industrialised countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

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匿名 | Anonymous

气候问题解决与经济刺激 (1)

增加了一个工业排放问题, 二氧化碳释放环节的能力壮大。
同时由于人为砍伐林木减少了森林植被, 二氧化碳吸收环节的能力缩小。
减少工业排放的数量, 二氧化碳释放环节的能力缩小。
秸秆木炭取代林木炭,恢复增加森林植被 取得 二氧化碳吸收环节的能力壮大。

Climate change resolution and economic incentive

At the beginning of human civilization, when the mineral resources were not exploited, animals inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide, plants did photosynthesis: taking in carbon dioxide while exhausting out oxygen; so the atmosphere at that time was a virtuous cycle. With the industrialization progressing, large amount of oil as well as minerals were exploited and used. The use of those minerals released surplus big amount of green house gas like carbon dioxide. The gas broke the normal cycle and made the global warming. Then we came up a conclusion; which is: in the chain of the cycle, industrial exhausts was an addition part of it, and that means carbon dioxide release became more powerful. Meanwhile, because forests were destroyed by cutting the trees, the photosynthesis part became less powerful. Use straw charcoals instead of woods, restore forests, minimize the releasing amount of carbon dioxide.

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匿名 | Anonymous



Climate change resolution and economic incentive

Why is straw charcoal able to replace woods? Crops are grown in short-term cycle. With the ripe and harvest process, crops themselves have been dead. If we let it go, those straws will rot and produce a large amount of methane, whereas, methane is 20 times as the effect of carbon dioxide to green house effect. At the same time it will release carbon dioxide by the function of microorganism, form green house gas and seriously pollute the environment. If those straws can be scientifically used, charred into charcoal or made into deep processed products, it would eventually replace woods. In the light of this situation, woods can be saved and restored, forest's ability to absorb carbon dioxide can be elevated, green house gas can be reduced and the problem of climate change will be solved.

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匿名 | Anonymous



Solving Climate Issues and Economic Stimulus.(5)

Professor Pan Genxing at Nanjing University is actively engaged in soil climate research and is in the process of carrying out laboratory tests on several specimens that show that the soil quality is extremely stable. If we are able to carbonise field straw, then this will effectively improve the soil environment and would be beneficial to crop growth. It would also consequently solve the continuous soil cultivation barriers. Furthermore, such a process would be capable of stabilising soil cultivation within the next 300 years. Crop photosynthesis; absorbing carbon dioxide in air and water to form nutrients. If straw was to undergo the carbonisation process then it would succeed in obtaining the stability of carbon, and would reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Utilising soil in this particular way will greatly improve China’s soil farming situation, but solving the continuous soil cultivation barriers. Moreover, carbon dioxide can be stored for up to 300 years thus reducing greatly the pressure of global warming. Pushing for expansion, positive results in the present will benefit generations for thousands of years. The costs of CDM business transactions are only one part of the solution with government subsidies remaining. Soft straw carbonisation technology research is not impossible with commercial added value, the prospects of which appear very good. But, we need more in depth research as well as an increase in funding. I, myself am not the source of individual research funding and am powerless to assume further responsibility and so the inconvenience caused will be even greater.
This comment was translated by Laura Bewley.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



1 、硬质秸秆:用庞佃丰发明的秸秆炭化设备,炭化硬质秸秆。所得秸秆木炭,(以棉秆例)固定碳含量:72%、发热值:6200大卡。这两项木炭质量硬指标,已经与传统林木炭基本一致。我国每年:佛香、蚊香等香类,鞭炮、礼花等黑火药类,活性炭类等工业行业;高科技农业;火锅、烧烤、取暖等民用行业;每年消耗的林木炭近2千万吨。而林木炭的生产是需要3倍的木材产出1吨林木炭。如果以硬质秸秆所生产的“秸秆木炭”取代传统“林木炭”,将每年节约近6千万吨木材。让每年节约的近6千万吨木材的树木继续生长(一棵大树生长60年吸收1吨二氧化碳),它将成为每年持续增大的“地球绿肺”。让它去吸收工业排放到大气中的,那些多余的二氧化碳,将极大的减少温室气体,降低气候变暖。在降低气候变暖压力的同时,废弃秸秆就转变成了生产资源。在秸秆木炭及其深加工产品,生产销售获取经济效益的同时,一个全新的,以废弃秸秆资源化利用、为基础的,秸秆新能源产业成型,这将为国民经济增加一个新产业。



Climate change resolution and economic incentive(3)

There are two ways of charred straw to solve climate change. Straw as a kind of short-term-grown crop can be divided into two categories. One is "hard straw" including cotton, sunflower, Castor and those relatively heavy plants. Another category is called "soft straw" including corn, wheat, rice and those relatively lightweight plants.1."hard straw“: Use the equipment invented by Pang Xifeng to make the hard straw charred. The straw charcoal we get, take cotton straw for instance, has 72% of the fixed carbon rate, and 6200 Kcal of calorific value. These two indexes approximately reach the same level as wood charcoal does. In China,20 million tonnes of wood charcoal is consumed annually, including fragrance (fragrance of Buddha,mosquito incense and etc.), gunpowder (firecrackers and fireworks), industrial use (active carbon), high tech agriculture and civil use (hotpot and oven). Whereas, 3 tonnes of woods is required to produce 1 tonne of wood charcoal. If we use straw charcoal instead of wood charcoal, we will save some 60 million tonnes of woods. If we let those saved woods keep growing(a tree lives 60 yeas and absorb 1 tonne carbon dioxide), they will become an increasing "green lung" of the world. They can absorb the extra green house gas emitted by industries and relieve the situation of climate change. At the same time, those waste straws could become a resource for production. This can both get economic profits by straw charcoal and its deep processed production and become a new industry of the national economy.

We sincerely hope that under good policy guidance, those enterprises which use straw charcoal as raw materials keep using it, and those which doesn't start to study it and replace wood charcoal with straw charcoal. Then we would realize the idea that wood charcoal is going to get off the stage of history and confront the new era of harmony between industrialization and ecological environment.

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匿名 | Anonymous



Climate change resolution and economic incentive(4)

2."Soft Straw ": Representatives of soft straws are corn, wheat and rice. In many places in China, most of those soft straws are shattered and put back to the field. This effectively controls the air pollution caused by incinerating. However, shattering straws and putting them back to field could inevitably produce methane and carbon dioxide released by microorganism. I have made some progress in the study of soft straw. Even though soft straws can not be produced into straw charcoal of high quality for industry owing to its material limitations, it still can be converted to stable straw charcoal.