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Q & A with Tao Zhang: Scaling Up Impact Investing in China

Opportunities in China for impact investing are growing, where investors look to create positive social and environmental benefits alongside returns. Impact investors actively choose to put their money into companies that address social and environmental issues through their business models. Tao Zhang, the Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship with local operations in China and five other high growth markets, answers questions on the country’s current investment climate for environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Three Ideas That Are Good for Both Economy and Environment

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.

China At Durban: First Steps Toward a New Climate Agreement

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).

Looking to Durban: China’s Climate Change Policy Progress Since Cancun

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):

The Role Of Cities In Meeting China’s Carbon Intensity Goal

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.

The Role of Cities in Meeting China’s Carbon Intensity Goal

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.

Opening Doors to U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Environment

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.

Q&A with Holger Dalkmann: Creating a Vision for Sustainable Cities

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.

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