Clean energy faces China popularity contest

By Maverick Chen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 7, 2011
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The recent heavy smog in Beijing has once again raised concerns that China still has a long way to go to reach its carbon emission reduction goals.

Concerns center on the fact that the PM2.5 concentration in most parts of urban Beijing surpassed 500 micrograms per cubic meter twice in the space of less than a week. The figure is in the upper range of what would be considered 'hazardous' according to the air quality index (AQI).

Shortly before attending the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, China promised that, by 2020, it would cut its carbon dioxide emission per GDP unit by 40-50 percent compared to 2005 levels.

China's continuous efforts have been rewarded with a number of successes. One such success, according to Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese Delegation to Durban Climate Talks (COP 17) in South Africa, is that China now has total control of carbon emissions. Xie made the comment in an interview with Orient TV.

Clean Development-The Monument of New Growth, the report jointly launched by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. [Pierre Chen /]

Clean Development-The Monument of New Growth, the report jointly launched by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. [Pierre Chen /]

However, China still relies heavily on traditional energy, particularly coal, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's energy consumption. This reliance makes the task of shaping a low-carbon society a very difficult one, at least in the short term.

In addition, China's goal of reducing carbon emissions has yet to be fully understood by the wider public, who generally view terms such as "low carbon" and "green development" as either slogans or fashionable trends. The Chinese public has yet to discover the tangible advantages of assuming a low-carbon lifestyle.

The higher cost of clean energy could, in part, explain why it has yet to become as popular in China as many thought it would be. In order to switch to clean energy, the technical transformation in the manufacturing sector also requires a huge capital investment, according to Shi Lishan, a senior official with the China National Energy Bureau. Shi made his comments at the 21st Century China Low-Carbon Development Summit 2011 in Beijing on Tuesday.

Shi added that China has sufficient clean energy reserves to meet the country's needs. However, he cautioned that the biggest problem is the cost involved in sourcing and utilizing such reserves. Shi's comments echoed Xie Zhenhua's remark in Durban that, "once funding problems have been solved, all other problems cease to exist."

Many enterprises in China have viewed carbon emission reduction as an obstacle, as they must periodically halt production in order to ensure they remain within the quota. This has aroused resentment in the industrial sector, particularly in less developed regions where green technology and education relating to green development have not been embraced.

Experts have urged businesses to see clean energy as a new opportunity. "Those enterprises need to change their ideas. The new fields also signal new market," said Zhang Xinping, deputy director of Urban Development and Environment Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

"Clean energy and China's focus on low-carbon development will certainly boost both those who deal in clean energy equipment and those who use such equipment," said Zhang. Zhang made his comments while presenting a CASS report entitled Clean Development-The Monument of New Growth in Beijing on Tuesday.

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