Oct 31, 2013 - 2:33pm
This article first appeared in Crikey on 31 October, 2013.
Abbott government promising to repeal the carbon tax and the Liberals' own
Direct Action plan looking dicey, the Chinese government might be doing more to
tackle greenhouse gas emissions than the Australian government.
Institute’s Erwin Jackson talks to Washington-based Ailun Yang, a senior
associate on the major emerging economies team of the World Resources Institute,
about China's climate initiatives.
The WRI is a global research organisation
that works across resource sustainability, and Yang leads the efforts to build
the case for low-carbon development in a number of major developing countries
such as China and India ...
is China at with pricing carbon?
China has an
overall carbon intensity target of reducing carbon emissions per dollar of
economic output by 40% to 45% in 2020 from 2005 levels. Policy options of
carbon trading and carbon tax -- both could put a price on carbon -- have been
discussed. In June 2013, China launched its first pilot emission trading
program in the city of Shenzhen. This was the first of the seven proposed pilot
GHG cap-and-trade schemes in China, which the
country has been developing since 2011.
have been some other recent policy announcements from China?
Pollution Prevention Action Plan was released on September 12th, which put a
coal consumption cap on Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong provinces from
2012 to 2017. These provinces consume one-fifth of all coal in China and will
have to cut their consumption by 10% in just four years. The action plan also
bans the construction of any new coal-fired plants in the three city clusters
around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Although this is not strictly a climate
policy, it will have major implications for China’s climate actions, since coal
is the main source of the carbon emissions.
are the drivers behind these measures; are they about other things besides the
government has acknowledged climate change as a real and significant threat.
However, besides climate change, there are many other imperatives behind these
measures. They include pressures for economic restructuring, energy security,
local environmental concerns for air pollution and water scarcity, etc. Among
those, the air pollution issue has probably caught the most international media
attention. The repeated severe smog episodes in major Chinese cities in the
last couple of years have caused serious public frustrations, which put
environmental protection high up on the government’s agenda.
analysts suggest China’s moves to restructure its economy, tackle air pollution
and drive investments in new industries will see the nation’s coal consumption
peak sooner than expected.
What is the status of new build coal-fired power
stations in China?
What is a realistic prospect for the peak in Chinese coal
past couple of years, there are some dramatic changes in the perception of the
role of coal in China, where the dominance of coal is no longer considered
unshakable. Looking at the growth of new power generation capacity, this year
is likely to be the first time where the non-fossil sources will be bigger than
coal in new installment. Already in 2009, the investment in renewable energy
power generation overtook that of coal; now we're seeing this shift of
reinvestment results in actual installed capacity. Various academic and
industry analysis have predicted that Chinese coal consumption could peak by
2020, followed by a deep decline.
do all these developments mean for investors in Australian fossil fuel projects
that are aimed at the Chinese market?
with the Chinese coal demands could add on to the risks of both coal mining and
other infrastructure development projects in Australia.
new Australian government has announced it will try and repeal the carbon price
scheme. Has the Chinese government said anything about this? What do you think
the Chinese government’s reaction would likely be?
predict the reaction of the Chinese government. However, this is a time where
more and more governments have realised the benefits of tackling climate change
and understood low-carbon economy as an important way to generate new
competitiveness. The decision of the Australian government to repeal the carbon
price scheme could be sending Australia in the opposite direction of the global
trends. Also, in the face of intensifying climate disasters, countries around
the world need to work together to tackle this global challenge. The absence of
Australia, in my personal opinion, would be a big pity.
Erwin is Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute. With nearly 20 years practical experience in climate change policy
and research, Erwin has developed and led many national and
international programs aimed at reducing greenhouse pollution. This work
has been undertaken in Australia, Europe, North and South America, the
Pacific and Antarctica. He has represented non-governmental groups and
advised government and business in national, regional and international
fora, including being a non-governmental expert reviewer of the reports
of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Erwin has written, researched and produced many
publications on climate change and energy policy including a number of
review papers in scientific journals such as the Medical Journal of