Sunday, July 26, 2009

Progress, but not enough

CGS has been out of action for a while. A combination of travel and the continuing difficulties of lying behind the Great Firewall ( domains can only be accessed via proxy servers on the Chinese mainland) have contributed to this. However, CGS will maintain postings when possible.

In the past few weeks, of course, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited China, making a very favorable impression and launching important initiatives such as a Memorandum of Understanding on building energy efficiency and pledging $15 million for a joint US-China clean energy research center. Despite the progress, the prospects for significant Chinese concessions at Copenhagen look little better.

In fact, China has gone on something of a public relations blitz recently, highlighting its efforts to improve energy efficiency. The Shanghai Daily newspaper recently featured an article entitled "China fights climate change in its own way," which thoughtfully highlighted the Chinese Cabinet's decision to reduce energy use by encouraging its members to forgo wearing suits inside its meeting halls. China's Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, has also been making the rounds stumping China's energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. China Daily even featured an editorial that questioned the current focus on climate change in favor of population control- not an unreasonable argument, but the implication was that China is doing its part for the world's environment simply by limiting its population increase.

Of course, China has made impressive commitments to limiting the increase in its greenhouse gas emissions. Officials have said recently, for example, that China is on track to produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. But all of this is only a start. Despite the impressive numbers, there's a great deal of doubt if such policies will meaningfully reduce China's emissions. See, for example, this report indicating that China's much-touted wind farms have significantly lower capacity than intended, reducing the amount of electricity they can actually produce.

CGS has often observed the sea change in China's efforts to control its emissions over the past three or so years. There's been tremendous progress, for which China can rightly claim recognitions. But, as in the United States, where the landmark ACES legislation may be further eroded by special interests, it's doubtful whether China's actions will be enough to prevent dangerous climate change impacts. Let's hope there's something big coming in Copenhagen.

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