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Updates from Tianjin: WRI Event Focuses on Tools for a Low-Carbon Pathway in China

This post originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.

“The challenge for China is to find a third carbon pathway, one offering a high quality of life for its people, but at much lower emissions per capita than any of the developed country models,” said WRI China Country Director and Renmin University Professor Zou Ji at WRI’s official side event at the UN Climate Conference in Tianjin last week.

Zou led a group of WRI staff and Renmin colleagues in a discussion of critical tools for sectoral and city-level emissions planning in China and then called on a distinguished international panel to provide commentary. Professor Zou noted the variety of carbon pathways offered by the developed world, a high carbon approach typified by the US, Australia and Canada, and a more moderate approach in Europe and Japan, but he and other panelists noted that the global carbon budget cannot support even a current European or Japanese level of emissions for every Chinese citizen. As a result there is a global need to develop a new, lower carbon pathway, one that today exists nowhere in the world. Zou said such a pathway would require international cooperation and pooled ingenuity. (View Zou Ji’s presentation here >>>)

WRI’s own work focuses on both sectors and cities, what we call our sectoral and spacial approach. The sectoral approach focuses on highly emitting industries, since as WRI’s Song Ranping noted, today most of China’s emissions are focused in the industrial and power sectors. Song also discussed the specifics of the cement sector work, a major emitting sector, which demonstrates many of the challenges of China’s widely fragmented industrial sector, with thousands of separate operations with both the newest and the most antique technology operating in the world today. (View Song Ranping’s presentation here >>>)

WRI China’s Fong Wee Kean and Renmin’s Wang Ke discussed the importance of city-level planning tools in a country where targets are allocated to provinces and then to cities. Fong also emphasized the importance of cities with their higher emissions but highly concentrated populations as the critical area for achieving savings. Wang presented a case study of current collaborative work with Guiyang city, a heavy industry-reliant city in China’s interior. (View Fong Wee Kean’s presentation here >>>)

In her commentary on the presentations, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) Division Director Huang Wenhang noted the importance of these types of tools and analysis for the 12th Five-Year Plan and its carbon intensity goal. Both former NDRC Energy Research Institute (ERI) Director Zhou Dadi and ERI Professor Jiang Kejun noted the tremendous challenge in finding a true low carbon pathway while continuing to produce economic growth. Zhou pointed out that even though by 2050 China’s economy may be larger than the US, on a per capita basis the average Chinese citizen would be 2/3 poorer. WWF’s Yang Fuqiang emphasized the importance of genuinely integrated urban planning, rather than simply separate transportation, building and other plans at the urban level. The UK Embassy’s David Concar noted the value of multiple urban case studies, including similar work that the UK had supported in Jilin, in China’s Northeast. And the UNDP’s Gorild Heggelund summed it up by noting the unprecedented nature of China’s urbanization means that it will have to find its own way.

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