What are the top environmental and development issues that will shape 2012? This morning, I presented the World Resources Institute’s 9th annual “Stories to Watch” at the National Press Club. While we can’t predict the future, here’s a rundown of the key issues to keep an eye on:
This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.
As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.
This post originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.
The UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, concluded over the weekend with a consensus to negotiate an agreement that will include all major emitters of warming gases. The conference agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, extended the work of the group for Long-term Cooperative Action, and most significantly established new negotiations under the Durban Platform. Launching these negotiations was hailed as major progress around the world (Bloomberg, The Statesman, Xinhua). For the first time the world’s three major emitters (by total amount of greenhouse gases emitted), China, the United States and India, have agreed to begin negotiations for an international “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,” indicating that there will be actions and efforts by all countries. (For the implications of this complex legal wording, see my colleague Jake Werksman’s discussion on WRI Insights).
This post was written with Angel Hsu and originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.
As its negotiators head to Durban, South Africa for the next round of the UNFCCC climate negotiations, China can point to significant progress in domestic climate policy since the Cancun negotiations a year ago. March, 2011 saw the adoption of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, binding domestically China’s first phase of its Copenhagen and Cancun commitments to reduce its carbon intensity 40 to 45 percent by 2020. In this first year of the new Five Year Plan, China also adopted a number of specific climate-related implementation measures (For a more exhaustive list, see China’s just published White Paper on its climate change activities):
Part 2: Challenges
This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.
In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presented low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 explores some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 will present some possible solutions to these challenges.
Despite the work by major Chinese cities to move city planning onto a low-carbon trajectory, several challenges remain. Notable among these are the unclear relationship between low-carbon city planning and other planning processes, a lack of methods to account for city-level greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a lack of approaches to address GHG emissions from electricity transmission.
Part 1: China's Low-Carbon City Plans
This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.
In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presents low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 will explore some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 will present some possible solutions to these challenges.
Worldwide, cities are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of total energy consumption, and account for approximately the same proportion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As elsewhere, the growth of investment, consumption, and trade in China’s cities has been a major driver not only of economic growth, technological advances, and human development, but also of energy use and GHG emissions. In contrast to most western cities, where most emissions come from buildings and transport, industry still plays a major role in Chinese cities’ GHG emissions. Ongoing massive investment in urban infrastructure, as well as changing urban lifestyles, will also play a determining role in the future trajectory of China’s GHG emissions.
Because of China’s size, its national strategies and policies are typically interpreted and implemented at provincial and municipal levels. Key decisions regarding investment and consumption also take place at the local level. Cities, therefore, are crucial leverage points for implementation of national climate and energy strategies and policies in China.
Vice President Joe Biden had it right in his recent visit to China. Global stability, he declared in an August 18 speech in Beijing "rests in no small part on the cooperation between the United States and China."
The U.S. vice president was referring to economic stability. But the world's ability to come up with a stable and sustainable energy and environmental policy for the 21st century will also depend significantly on cooperation between the world's current and emerging superpowers. As I have found from my experience in China, Beijing's door is increasingly open to such cooperation. The United States would do well to come knocking.
This interview was conducted by Itir Sonuparlak and originally appeared on TheCityFix.
Last month, Holger Dalkmann started as the newest director of EMBARQ, WRI's center for sustainable transport. An avid cyclist and a geographer by trade, Dalkmann assumes his role with a strong background in business development, research and policy in both transport and environment. Prior to his new role, Dalkmann worked for the Transportation Research Lab and as a policy adviser for governments in Asia and Europe. Dalkmann consulted international organizations like the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the United Nations Environment Program on issues of transport and climate change.
In order to get to know Holger Dalkmann a little better and to understand his vision for the future of sustainable transport, we asked him a few questions.
This piece originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.
China’s Climate Change Minister Xie Zhenhua offered a new phrase to emphasize the importance of technologies to reduce carbon in a speech at a major international conference on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Beijing, July 27.
Minister Xie said that China’s energy and environment policies support “energy efficiency and carbon reduction” (jieneng jiantan). This is a modification of the phrase used to support the national policy of “energy efficiency and pollution reduction” (jieneng jianpai), which addresses the broad range of pollutants. Based on a number of signals, including these phrases and the day’s speeches, it seems that China’s interest in CCS is increasing. These developments occurred at the conference sponsored by Xie’s own National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).