For over a year, I’ve been paying attention to the many ways that China is taking the lead, both politically and practically, in clean energy and climate change policy. Today I offer up a few recent updates that are noteworthy—especially as the US passes up opportunity after opportunity to move in the same direction (often using China as a reason for inaction!).
Just so we all get this straight, here’s the gist: China is pumping all kinds of resources into renewable energy sources and at this rate will most definitely corner the global market on clean energy technology; they are building wind farms in Texas—yes, Texas! Right in our back yard (and we have to beg to get at least a few American jobs out of the deal); and the Chinese government is likely to implement a cap and trade system in order to unhitch their economy from dirty fuels and spark further least-cost innovations and efficiency measures—all while creating good, Chinese jobs and beating the global recession.
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- The United Steelworkers announced that it had signed a deal with two Chinese companies that are planning a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas to assure that some of the high-value parts are made in this country.
- China is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs—a.k.a. cap and trade—during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. China Daily reports that “the decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and attended by officials from related ministries, enterprises, environmental exchanges and think tanks.” (A small-scale cap and trade pilot took place in China earlier this year).
- Teryn Norris and Daniel Goldfarb of the nonprofit group Americans for Energy Leadership declare that “China and other nations are establishing dominance in one of the largest growth industries of the century.” Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum, “the global clean energy market will reach $450 billion annually by 2012 and $600 billion by 2020. Full market potential for clean energy products is much larger, with one analysis estimating Chinese market potential alone at $500 billion to $1 trillion.” As Norris and Goldfarb point out, “no wonder President Obama declared in the State of the Union, ‘The nation that leads the clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.'” (Via Andrew Revkin at DotEarth).
- China will soon unveil a $739 billion alternative energy plan, a Chinese economic journal reports; it is to include nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, and clean coal.
In a story yesterday about China closing down a slew of energy-intensive factories by the end of September, the New York Times reported that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China recently promised to use an “iron hand” to improve his country’s energy efficiency. It’s certainly not the way we do things in the US and Canada. But, it shouldn’t mean we do nothing! As a United Steelworkers spokesperson said, “these are communist capitalists!” That’s right and they’re going to profit—big—while they figure out how to curb global warming pollution and shift away from dirty fuels. How smart! Now, why didn’t we think of that??
Image: MorgueFile, chaa508.