State Council Ushers in China’s Green Reign?

10 06 2009
A more figurative take on "energy"
A more figurative take on “energy.” From mountain to stone, the sea change required for sustainability requires unceasing effort and patience. Will China be able to do this, and establish its “green reign”?

Kudos to Julian Wong, China energy wonk and genius behind Green Leap Forward.  Wong, who recently joined the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC as an analyst, snagged a quote in the June 10th Guardian article, “China makes renewable power play to be world’s first green superpower.”

The Guardian article, written by Jonathan Watts, claims a new era, one in which China will lead the world in green energy, is upon us.  As Watts writes, “the world has grown used to condemning China as a climate criminal.”  If you travel through China, the logic behind this becomes fairly obvious, if even in an anecdotal way.  After a few days in Shanghai, your mucus will be grayish black.  Anecdotal, but startling nonetheless.  For those who have traveled to some of the less-beaten paths of industrial China, the results of ongoing non-green development is even more painfully obvious.

As per Watts’ article, China’s State Council has plans to change this.  The State Council will soon release its ” ‘new energy‘ programme that could propel the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter past Europe and the US into a global leader in renewable energy and low-carbon technology.”  That, according to many, is reason for celebration.  Watts echoes various Chinese and international voices in echoing the long-term nature of China’s green energy moves.  After all, investments of potentially more than four trillion yuan in green energy ventures will certainly require–and get–a long-term management plan.

Like Watts, Wong seems very excited about the prospect.  As Watts writes,

If a substantial amount of the new package goes on renewables and efficiency, Julian Wong, an energy analyst at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, says the potential is enormous.

He [Wong] says: “If those expectations are fulfilled, China could emerge as the unquestioned global leader in clean energy production, significantly increasing its chances to wean [itself] off coal, and at the same time ushering in an era of sustainable economic growth by exporting these clean-energy technologies to the world.”

Julian Wong, creator of the blog, "Green Leap Forward"

Julian Wong, Creator of the blog, "Green Leap Forward"

 My only apprehensions (Who am I kidding? SOME of my apprehensions) regard the diversity of China’s energy supply.  The move toward long-term, sustainable energy in China is surely closely linked with national security.  Through nurturing domestic capacity and demand for clean energy, China hopes to reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources. 

I worry, however, that the time crunch (China wants to “speed things up”) and the lack of cohesion between rural and urban areas, among other factors, would prevent China’s clean energy output from reaching its high targets.  And, lookinng at China’s moves toward finding energy and ore abroad, including moves into the Sudan and increasing clout with central Asian countries, I would be worried about China importing its “dirty” energy from abroad, even while cultivating the domestic market for clean energy.

So, bully for the State Council for its “new energy” program.  I’m crossing my fingers for the little guys, the bureaucrats that will actually usher in (or not) China’s green reign.  And, when details are realeased, I’ll leave it to the big brains, like Julian Wong, to come through with circumspect criticism and advice.




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