Renewable Energy: All Eyes Are on China While George Bush Lets USA Greentech Leadership Slip

Thomas Schueneman

When faced with providing a reason why his administration shuns taking a leadership role dealing with climate change, George Bush will generally let the word China roll out of his mouth with the first sentence or two: Why should we do something when China isn’t doing anything?

China overtakes USA in developing a low-carbon economy

Ahh, the sound of leadership!

Well, Mr. President, while you insure that the United States takes a backseat from its usual position of leader, while Congress remains thus far unable to extend the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy development, and while the punditry from the likes of the Wall Street Journal scream like children over the economic devastation that dealing with climate change and creating a new energy economy will bring, China has lapped us.

Sure, they’ve go their problems. Serious problems. But it appears as if they aren’t just sitting on their hands waiting for somebody else to do something about either.

This Friday, The Climate Group, an international non-profit working for the advancement of a low-carbon economy, will release new research in a report called China’s Clean Revolution. 

It appears that China, as an emerging economic super-power, isn’t weighed down by business as usual and bellyaching from top-heavy, unimaginative, coddled industries constitutionally unwilling and unable to seize the day!

There’s a whole new world out there to take hold of. When did America become so afraid of building a new future (and dominating the the world economy while doing it) that we dare not move for fear that nobody else has? 

The point is moot; while we hide behind Bush’s adolescent petulance, China is blazing a trail.

Key findings in The Climate Group’s report include (quoting from the report):

      • China has recently over-taken the US as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gas and will play a key role in solving the climate change challenge facing the world. China’s 1.3 billion population currently accounts for 24 per cent of total global emissions. Although China’s CO2 per capita is still relatively low, should China’s citizens ever emit as much CO2 per capita as Americans now are, China’s total emissions would be roughly equivalent to the entire planet today.
      • Often described as the factory of the world, 23 per cent of China’s CO2 emissions were produced in the manufacture of products for export in 2004, mainly to the developed world. However, it is precisely its ability to manufacture technology in large volumes and at competitive prices that will enable it to dominate the world’s renewable technology market.
      • China is already the leading renewable energy producer in the world in terms of installed generating capacity, with the largest hydro-electric fleet and fifth largest wind power fleet in the world. It plans to double the proportion of renewable energy to 15 per cent by 2020. China has seen investment of USD$12bn in renewable energy - more than than any other country in the world except Germany.
      • China is already a leading manufacturer of solar photo-voltaic technology with 820 megawatts of production by the end of 2007, second only to Japan. Output of solar panels has doubled for each of the last four years. By 2009, China will also become the world’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines, with leading companies Goldwind and Sinovel branching into exports. It is also taking the lead in solar water heaters, energy efficient home appliances, and rechargeable batteries.
      • China leads the world in low carbon transport. China is introducing fuel efficiency standards for cars which are 40 per cent higher than those in the US. 21 million electric bicycles and 1.64 million energy efficient compact cars were sold in 2007. China is the world’s third largest ethanol producer, and by converting an area of marginal land half the size of the UK, it plans to grow 12 million tonnes of low carbon fuel per year by 2020.
      • China is making successful efforts in reducing energy intensity. China has targeted a 20 per cent reduction in energy intensity by 2010, on 2005 levels. Using high efficiency, super critical technology to replace small, inefficient coal plants, China has avoided CO2 emissions of approximately 37.6 million tonnes a year (since 2007). China has set energy efficiency targets for its 1000 largest energy consuming companies.
      • China has a strong and comprehensive low carbon policy framework in place. In addition to an over-arching 20 per cent energy intensity reduction target and a 15 per cent energy reduction target a comprehensive set of complementary regulations have been developed to cover almost every sector of China’s economy. These include fuel economy regulations, mandatory efficiency and labelling standards for home appliances, green car taxes, strict building efficiency design codes, and renewable subsidies.
      • Chinese entrepreneurs are riding a low carbon wave of investment. A low carbon wave has swept up tens of thousands of Chinese companies and created some of China’s most successful business leaders. China’s six largest solar PV manufacturers had a market value of over USD$15bn in July 2008; the market for solar water heaters is worth over USD$2bn a year and is growing at 20 per cent; and the market for electric bicycles (e-bikes) is around USD$6bn.
      • The report highlights the massive investment opportunity that will be created around China’s low carbon development. Returns on energy efficiency improvements often exceed 50 per cent per year, equivalent to a pay-back period of only two years. China is the second largest recipient of sustainable energy investment (USD$12bn) of any other country in the world except Germany. Taking advantage of international markets, China has already become the largest supplier of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits in the world which is now funding billions of dollars worth of carbon reductions. It is estimated that China will require a further USD $398bn (USD$33bn per year) to meet its 2020 renewable energy goals.

      There is an opportunity before us to rise to the occasion in which we find ourselves. That is the occasion of transforming society, ushering in a new era, solving what would seem insurmountable challenges, and working to grasp a future instead of cling to a past.

      And we should do it, not because anyone else is, but simply because it is the smart thing to do, the wise things to do, the correct thing to do, and the right thing to do.

      I’m just a little cranky today.

      Further Reading:

      Tags: china+climate+change, china+renewable+energy, the+climate+group


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