U.S. experts on China, foreign policy and climate change meeting in New York on November 9, 2009 praised China’s strong effort in dealing with climate change.
“In China, we see continued effort by the government to increase the energy efficiency of its power plants, industries, buildings and equipment,” said Barbara Finamore, founder and director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) China Program and President of the China-US Energy Efficiency Alliance.
“There was a recent announcement by the President of China at the UN Climate Change Conference in September that China will reduce its carbon intensity by a notable margin between 2005 and 2020,” she said at China, Law and Copenhagen: CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) and NRDC Discuss, a meeting discussing the run-up to Copenhagen and the current state of U.S.- China environmental relations.
“There is a growing realization in China of the vulnerability to the impact of climate change on some of its most threatened resources, particularly its water resources and its agricultural resources,” said Finamore, who has more than 25 years’ experience in environmental law and policy in the United States, China and Russia.
She said China was “also aware of the growing need to limit its dependence on oil as a result of its increasing car ownership,” citing a report last week that Tianshan glacier, which provides 70percent of the water for Xinjiang Uygur Automonous Region, was melting rapidly.
“Energy security is a very strong drive here,” she added.
She said China had already taken “very strong actions” under the current Five-Year Plan, adding that it had pledged to reduce its energy intensity by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, and it was already half way toward that goal, which was “quite remarkable.”
“If fully implemented, these actions alone will reduce China’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 billion tons, which is larger than that pledged by all of the other countries who signed the Kyoto Protocol,” she said.
Finamore also praised China’s “wide variety of actions”, including closing down outdated manufacturing capabilities and replacing small, inefficient power plants with larger more efficient ones, strengthening building codes, equipment standards, industrial processes and efficiency standards, and focusing on its top 1000 most energy intensive factories, which together account for 40 percent of its energy use.
She also spoke highly of China’s effort in revising its targets “over and over again” for the share of wind, solar and other renewable energy for achieving its targets faster than anticipated.
Finamore said signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and China on cooperation in climate change and clean energy was “impressive.” In July this year, China sent 150 experts and government officials to Washington, where they signed the memorandum with the Obama Administration.
Alex Wang, senior attorney at NYDC and director of NRDC’s China Environmental Law Project, provided a briefing on how China was meeting its policies’ targets. He said evaluating officials’ performance in dealing with carbon emissions in China helps the world effort in this regard, too.
The meeting was chaired by Jerome Alan Cohen, an internationally renowned expert on the Chinese legal system, and was attended by Orville Schell, an expert on Far Eastern History and noted Chinese experts.
The discussion was jointly hosted by Asia Society, the NRDC, New York University’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute, and the CFR.