Re: 10 Reasons: Cancun Failure?


Cancun can’t: Ten reasons why the climate talks will fail

November 29, 2010 by Marc Gunther

For the next couple of weeks, thousands of government officials, NGOs, environmental activists and reporters will gather in Cancun, Mexico for international climate negotiations, officially known as the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s fitting that the talks are being held in a vacation resort, where people go to escape–because only by ignoring what’s happening in the rest of the world is it possible to take these UN negotiations seriously.

Heading into the Cancun talks, expectations are low. They aren’t low enough. Here are 10 reasons why it will be hard, if not impossible, to bring about meaningful action to curb global warming through this UN process. Many are admittedly U.S.-centric, all of them matter and if you want to skip ahead through this unusually long post, No. 10 is the biggest reason why I doubt that these Cancun talks, or the successor negotiations–COP17 in South Africa, COP18 in South Korea, etc.–will get us the change we need.

So as not to be too gloomy, I’ll conclude with a thought or two on what might work instead…but first the discouraging news.

What's the climate equivalent of a river on fire?

1. Global warming pollutants are invisible. So it’s hard to get people to care about them. Winning broad public support to regulate soot or smog or soiled rivers or polluted beaches iseasier. A 1969  fire in the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland lasted just 30 minutes, but it helped fuel the environmental movement and  passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

2. The costs of curbing climate change are immediate and the benefits are in the future. Any effort to reduce emissions will cost money because low-carbon energy sources (solar, wind, nuclear) are more expensive than burning fossil fuels. Electric cars are pricier than gas-powered vehicles. But Americans don’t like to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. We’re lousy at saving. Instead of  raising taxes or cutting government benefits, we run up huge deficits that will burden future generations. Government debt is close to 90% of GDP. Deferred gratification is not our strong suit.

3. Environmentalists have been disingenous about the climate issue. They’ve argued that regulation of carbon dioxide will create green jobs and grow the economy. Typical is this graphic from Environmental Defense. (“Get a step-by-step picture of how a carbon cap will spark new jobs, lift the economy and clean the air.”) Uh, no. Most economists agree that dealing with global warming will entail short term costs. (See Eric Pooley’s excellent analysis at Slate.) Their estimates of those costs are generally in the range of 0.5 to 1% of U.S. GDP (Harvard’s Robert Stavins) or 1 percent of global GDP (The Stern Review, PDF). The costs of inaction will eventually be much greater. But carbon regulation will likely slow economic growth in the short run by raising energy costs. It’s not a free lunch, and we should be honest about that.

4. Republicans who matter don’t believe climate science. Ron Brownstein put it well a few weeks ago in The National Journal:

The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones.

Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here.

Why this is the case is a topic for another day. It’s worth noting that when Republicans polled by The Washington Post were asked, “Is there solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades or not?” only 38% of Republicans said yes while 53% said no.

For a reality check, visit the very useful Global Climate Dashboard (bottom left of the page) or look at this global temperature chart from The New Scientist.

Without Republican support, comprehensive carbon regulation can’t be approved in the U.S.  What’s more, as you may recall from high school civics, it takes a two-thirds vote of the U.S. Senate to approve a treaty. And the goal of these negotiations is….a treaty!

5. China’s no more interested in a global treaty than we are. While you read lots about clean energy investments in China, economic growth in the world’s No. 1 emitter of GHGs is fueled by cheap coal. Some people argue that China deliberately sabotaged the Copenhagen talks–here’s a dramatic account from The Guardian.

6. Scant progress was made at COPs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. If the goal of the UN process is to reduce the threat of global warming, it’s not working. Global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and, as this chart shows, so does the atmospheric concentration of CO2.

These are from measurements taken in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, reported at the David Suzuki Foundation website. More detail can be found at the Global Carbon Project, which reports that even though emissions decreased slightly in 2009 because of the recession, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere continued to rise, albeit slightly, to 387 ppm. (Concentrations can rise even if emissions temporarily fall because CO2 persists in the atmosphere for decades.) Current levels have topped the 350 ppm that environmental activists and many scientists say is the safe upper limit for C02 concentrations, although there’s honest disagreement about that number. Most everyone expects emissions and GHG concentrations to rise again this year because the worst of the economic slump is behind us.

In that light, it’s no wonder that The Economist says this about the Cancun summit in its current issue:

Incremental progress is possible, but continued deadlock is likelier. What is out of reach, as at Copenhagen, is agreement on a plausible programme for keeping climate change.

Because CO2 levels continue to rise, and most nations are unlikely to achieve the non-binding targets they agreed to in Copenhagen, the magazine concludes that

The fight to limit global warming to easily tolerated levels is thus over.

7. Even the very modest achievements of Copenhagen have been unrealized. The most concrete commitment to come out of Copenhagen was for $30 billion in so-called “fast start climate finance” to development countries. Not so fast: The fund does not yet exist, and it’s not clear where the money is coming from, or who will decide how it’s spent. For more see this paper from the International Institute on Environment and Development.

8. The UN is the wrong venue. The UN process works by consensus, so any one of the 194 countries represented in Cancun country can bring talks to a halt.  Last year, Venezuela and Sudan held up the non-binding accord during an all-night negotiation session. This is madness.

Oxfam's "Message in a Bottle" to Cancun

9. The “climate justice” issue is intractable. What’s climate justice? Essentially, it’s the idea that while the impacts of climate change will fall most heavily on the poor–particularly but not exclusively those in the developing world–the problem of an overheating planet was mostly created by the rich. So, some would argue, we–that is, Americans, Europeans and Japanese and anyone else reading this blog–bear the bulk of the responsibility for cleaning up this mess and paying for damages.

As Oxfam International said in a media briefing today:

As those who have emitted most greenhouse gases during their industrialisation, developed countries have the greatest responsibility and most capacity to reduce emissions first and fastest.

Meanwhile, the costs of climate change, while hard to quantify, are rising. This year, the world has experienced

a total of 725 weather-related natural hazard events with significant losses from January to September 2010, the second-highest figure recorded for the first nine months of the year since 1980. Some 21,000 people lost their lives, 1,760 in Pakistan alone, up to one-fifth of which was flooded for several weeks. Overall losses due to weather-related natural catastrophes from January to September came to more than US$ 65bn and insured losses to US$ 18bn.

Those numbers come not from an activist group but from insurance giant Munich Re.

10. Climate change is the biggest “collective action” problem in human history. If there is a single reason why the world has made so little progress, so far, in reducing emissions, it is this: Protecting the climate requires an entirely unprecedented level of global cooperation, without which action at the individual, community, regional or national level is all but pointless.

What’s more, the costs of solving the problem, i.e., adopting more expensive forms of energy, are substantial and local, but the benefits of preventing catastrophic global warming are diffuse and global.

In this regard, climate pollution differs from other environmental problems. If a community or a nation wants to clean up a river or curb SO2 emissions from a coal plant, the costs and benefits are shared by, roughly speaking, the same people. This is not so with climate–in fact, benefits will only accrue if all major emitting nations agree to curb their pollution. Had the U.S. Senate enacted cap-and-trade last year, it would have made no meaningful difference to the planet unless China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia agreed to reductions of their own. It was because no nation or group of nations can solve this problem alone that the UN got involved way back when.

The so-called free rider problem isn’t the only problem with unilateral action.  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the U.S. stopped burning coal and oil tomorrow, and replaced them with renewable energy. Not only would that put our economy at a competitive disadvantage as energy costs rose, it would have the unintended effect of radically reducing demand for coal and oil, thereby driving down the global prices of fossil fuels and increasing the usage of coal and oil elsewhere.

Global trade adds yet another layer of complexity. China has become the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases, in part because it manufactures goods that are exported to the rest of the world. If China agrees to curb its GHG emissions, imposing higher energy costs on factories there, what would prevent manufacturers from moving to other nations–Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, wherever–that chose not to join a global regulatory regime. And whose emissions are those, anyway? If an iPod is made in China and sold in New York, who’s responsible?

In a 2007 paper, Scott Barrett, an economist and expert on environmental treaties, who is now a professor of natural resource economics at Columbia, wrote:

Mitigating, forestalling, or averting global climate change is a global public good. Supplying it by means of reducing emissions is vulnerable to free riding. Too few countries are likely to participate in such an effort, those that do participate are likely to reduce their emissions by too little, and even their efforts may be overwhelmed by trade leakage.

This was before COPs 13, 14 and 15 in Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen.

So, what is to be done? Barrett’s paper offers a response–it was called The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering. If we recognize that the current approach to climate change isn’t working, we should start to think hard about geoengineering, an approach that could buy us more time to figure out how to get off fossil fuels.

Then there’s the voluntary approach to reducing emissions, which was ridiculed when it was put forth by President Bush II, but doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore. Countries aren’t sitting on the sidelines waiting for a treaty; many are acting, as Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director at NRDC, writes in this excellent (and hope-filled) blogpost at NRDC’s Switchboard. “Real action is beginning to happen in key countries,” he writes. It’s not sufficient but “they are sending a signal that they are serious about addressing their pollution.”

Or we can focus on technology, hoping and praying for a breakthrough–supercheap solar energy, for example, that would out-compete coal or natural gas as a source of electricity, or low-cost batteries that would make electric cars more affordable, or advanced biofuels to displace oil. Here’s an argument for a government policy to promote energy innovation from Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of The Breakthrough Institute.

Or we can try to transform the political and culture climate by finding new ways to organize around the climate issue. Here we can learn from history–I’m thinking in particular of the anti-slavery movement, arguably the first and greatest global citizens movement of all time, which is chronicled in a fabulous book called Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild. Imagine a grass-roots, networked, distributed, moral-religious crusade against climate destruction….

But to change the world requires, first, seeing it as it is–and despite the best efforts of thousands, change isn’t likely to emerge from the talks Cancun.

About the Author Marc Gunther is a contributing editor at FORTUNE magazine who writes and speaks about business and sustainability.


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Re: Will USA Triple Energy Technology Investments?

U.S. Must Triple Investment in Energy Technology: President's Science Advisors

November 30, 2010 by Breakthrough Inst…

The United States should more than triple federal investments in the development of cutting edge new energy technologies to accelerate the transition to a low carbon energy system, according to President Obama's top science and technology advisors.

Joining an increasingly broad and consistent set of voices, from academia, policy organizations, business leaders and researchers, the President's science and technology advisors forcefully argue that accelerated energy innovation is critical to the nation's future prosperity for economic competitiveness, environmental, and national security reasons alike.

The report, "Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy," was written by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and released Monday.

The PCAST report recommends a series of measures to strengthen the federal energy innovation system, including: a major increase in federal funding for energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment; a strategic energy plan to assess and evaluate energy innovation policy and priorities every four years; and new programs to train and inspire the next generation of energy scientists and engineers to tackle the nation's energy and climate challenges.

Funding should be increased to $16 billion annually, according to the report, with the majority–75 percent–of funds dedicated to research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) projects early in the technology life cycle.

In order to avoid adding to the federal deficit, PCAST recommends using new revenue sources to fund roughly $10 billion of the new investments while limiting negative impacts on consumers. The report notes that a gas tax increase of just two pennies per gallon of motor fuel sold would raise $4 billion annually for key investments in energy innovation, while a one-tenth of one cent per kilowatt hour surcharge on all electricity sales would raise an equivalent amount.

Beyond additional funding, PCAST also calls for better coordination of federal energy innovation strategies, recommending that the Obama Administration establish a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), akin to the current Quadrennial Defense Review, to provide a multi-year roadmap for federal energy policy and energy technology objectives. A thorough review of federal energy subsidies is also advised, although the report does not delve into great specificity about which programs should be cut and which strengthened.

To train a new generation of scientists and engineers, PCAST recommends that the Department of Energy fund training grant programs and curriculum at universities around the country, aimed at undergraduates, graduates students, and post-docs. They also envision a new multidisciplinary social science research program geared towards understanding the energy innovation ecosystem and how new technologies succeed in the market place.

The Growing Energy Technology Consensus

The report is a high-profile endorsement of a technology-led clean energy innovation strategy, and adds to the momentum that has gathered over the past two years for major federal investment in energy R&D. Last year, 34 Nobel Prize recipients called on the President to commit $15 billion annually for energy R&D. This summer, private business leaders like Bill Gates and Norman Augustine, along with other members of the American Energy Innovation Council, advocated a similar scale of investment.

And most recently, the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute released "Post-Partisan Power," a $25 billion a year, technology-led innovation strategy to secure America's clean energy future. That report called for reforming energy subsidies to drive innovation, ramping up investment in energy and science education, and paying for additional investment in energy research and procurement through small but broad revenue streams like electricity surcharges or fees on imported oil–all very consonant with PCAST's recommendations.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu spoke in stark terms about the imperative to invest in energy innovation, warning of a "Sputnik moment" as China threatens to eclipse the United States in clean energy technology:

"Innovation is the key to prosperity and progress…you're making an expenditure because, in the long run, it's the future economic health of the country. That's not 20 years in the future; we're talking one, two, three years. We've got to make these investments."



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Re: World CO2 Level 2010

2010 to have Highest CO2 Emissions Since Tracking Started

November 26, 2010 by Jonathan Smith

In 2006 coal ranked second to petroleum, accounting for 27.4 percent of world primary energy production. “World coal production totaled 6.8 billion short tons, or 128 quadrillion Btu in 2006,” notes (XLS) the EIA (Energy Information Agency). World coal production increased (XLS) by 32.7 percent from the 1996 level of 5.1 billion short tons.

Authored by a large team of scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and European countries, a Global Carbon Project report now predicts CO2 emissions from burning coal, oil and gas will reach their highest in history this year.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and land use, 1980 - 2010
“A new analysis of 2009 global greenhouse gas emissions shows increased coal use has boosted global greenhouse gas emissions to the second highest level on record.”

The Independent explains this disturbing trend. “In the 1990s, annual average emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 1 per cent, and in the past decade they increased at an average annual rate of 2.5 per cent. This year they are on target to accelerate even faster.”

Scientists have revised their figures on global CO2 emissions, showing that levels fell by just 1.3 per cent in 2009 – less than half of what was expected. This year they are likely to increase by more than 3 per cent, greater than the average annual increase for the last decade.

Coal-fired power plant in China
In 2009 China lead the world in CO2 emissions. About 80 percent of China’s power plants run on coal.

Due to “increased coal use in China and India” there was “a smaller-than-expected dip” in emissions. Because of the worldwide recession with a decline in production, researchers expected more of a decline in emissions; but, the recession has effected these countries’ economies less.

So Western media focuses upon China overtaking the United States as the world’s largest energy consumer, as well as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. In turn, China says developed countries should lead the change because they lead in cumulative emissions.

Furthermore, China says foreign consumption of Chinese products is responsible for 30% of current GHG emissions. They are talking about us. The United States, with 8% of the world’s population consumes 25% of the world’s resources. It leads in emissions per head and its policy makers for the past two decades have delayed taking critical action to cut its carbon footprint. So, China accepts that coal is a necessary evil, and like other countries with environmentally devastating carbon footprints and coal reserves, chooses to spread the clean coal lie. But, as Senator Rockefeller has asked, do we really need coal?

Via Peak Energy we learn that The Climate Spectator has an article on the transition from the old model of “baseload” power generation to a new, more flexible system.

For years, David Mills, the eminent solar energy technology developer, has dreamed of creating a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure.

Next week the newly-retired founder of solar thermal technology company Ausra (now owned by French nuclear giant Areva), and a former leading researcher at UNSW, will present that model.

Using hourly data for energy use of the entire United States economy in 2006, Mills will demonstrate how it could have been powered almost exclusively by wind and solar (with storage and the help of biofuels for aircraft and some biomass capacity for certain smelting operations).

The details of his findings, including capacity and costing estimations, will be released when he addresses the Australian Solar Energy Society’s annual conference in Canberra next week. But in an exclusive interview with Climate Spectator, Mills gave a broad outline of his conclusions and suggested there was a surprisingly small difference in costs.

“Everyone says that you need flatline baseload capacity (such as coal or nuclear, or in some countries hydro) and build on that platform, and use load-following gas turbines,” Mills said.

“They assume that being baseload makes it cheaper, and all other things are more expensive.”

“What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. The traditional paradigm of flatline baseload does not exist in this scenario, but you need to understand that the replacement for baseload power is not another baseload, it’s a system of flexible and inflexible energy mechanisms based around wind and solar and other sources.”

The study is an extension of an idea that Mills has held dear for some time. In 2005 he presented a talk in Canberra suggesting that solar plans with a “primitive” storage model could run the electricity grid in eastern Australia.

Two years later, he did a similar study for California concluding that, based on hourly data for energy usage in 2006, solar could have carried well over 90 per cent of the electricity load.

The latest study – completed with a former R&D specialist at Ausra, Wei Li Cheng, and a US Department of Energy analyst Phil Larochelle – looks at how solar and wind could handle the entire electricity needs for the US in the same year, and also looks at whether it could handle the entire energy needs for the country, including transport.

Interestingly, wind and solar account for around 50 per cent each of the electricity supplies to handle summer demand and peaks, while more wind was used in winter. Such a system would require a capacity redundancy above peak demand, but would in fact be less than current systems.

Comparing Conversion and Distribution Efficiency
If electric utilities take responsibility for the impact upon climate change, then the future grid should look quite different. We would see changes in terms of acceptance of the prevailing, centralized power production model — a “sledgehammer” approach to power production, i.e., two-thirds of the energy consumed to create electricity is lost in the conversion process.

Mills says the study looked to test a number of different premises. The first premise was that there was enough solar and wind that, in combination, could run the US economy. There was.

The second was that solar and wind would be connected with a new electricity transmission system, using high voltage direct current lines for the spine of the network, which will allow more flows and result in considerably reduced transmission losses.

These are the sort of networks being contemplated by the Desertec consortium founded by a group of large European industrial giants that are looking to source solar power from north Africa to provide some of Europe’s energy needs.

Mills says China is installing more HVDC lines than any other country in the world – looking to link coal plants with the Three Gorges dam and wind and solar from the north and west of the country. “It very clear to see what they are doing and that it is a very good thing to do,” he said.

Mills says the data used for his study came from 2006, and was based around technology that might be used in 2050, but exists now – even though its lack of scale makes current deployment expensive. “Its not technology that we don’t have now. I didn’t want people saying that it’s future technology.” …

Mills notes the work of the Beyond Zero Emissions group, which outlined a highly contentious study into how Australia could go 100 per cent renewable by 2020 – not so much to suggest it should be done, but that it could be done.

The German industrial giant Siemens has also produced a report entitled “Picture the Future”, which suggested renewable energy could, by 2030, provide 70 per cent of Australia’s electricity needs, with half coming from solar – augmented by storage and a suite of installation across different time zones – and the rest made up of an equal share of wind and geothermal.



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Re: Work Outs Will Soon Create Energy and Burn Fat

Gyms Now Producing "Healthy Clean Energy"

November 30, 2010 by Nathanael Baker

"Healthy clean energy" may soon become a catch-phrase used around the world.  Businesses spanning multiple sectors and countries have begun to integrate exercise equipment as a means of generating electricity into their business plans.

As Time magazine reports, fitness centers and gym across North America are using energy converters on equipment such as stationary bikes and ellipticals to generate electricity for the gym.  According to Time, there are over 80 locations in North America that generate electric power from the sweat of their customers. 

Adam Boesel, the owner of Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon says an average workout produces 37.5 watt hours, which is enough to power a phone for one week.  Although this may not seem like a lot of energy, when one considers some gyms house hundreds of individuals at the same time, the figure grows exponentially.

Boesel says that his gym (a 3,000 square foot space) cannot produce enough electricity to make the facility carbon neutral, but if all his cardio machines are used at the same time, more than 10 times the amount of energy needed to run the gym at any one moment can be produced.

The idea of capturing the wasted energy generated from a spinning bike wheel or moving elliptical foot pads was first introduced in a fitness center in Hong Kong in 2007.  It has taken some time for the idea to cross the ocean and catch hold in America, though.  But, as Mike Curnyn, co-founder of the Green Revolution, a company that wires stationary bikes into batteries that store energy, explains, "We have seen a significant increase in interest in the past six months, which is a good sign that fitness centers are ready to invest in green technologies."  Adam Boesel can attest to this.  Green Microgym has become so popular that he is franchising it.

Fitness centers are ready to make the switch and so are gym-goers, many of whom take serious pride in the fact their workout generates clean power.  Gyms, however, are not the only businesses incorporating innovative energy producing schemes into their business plan.  Some bars are now offering pitchers of beer in exchange for generating power from a stationary bike.  And hotels have jumped into the game as well.

As Boesel says, someday businesses like these will not be seen as "green," but rather, as the norm.

About the Author Nathanael Baker is the Managing Editor of EnergyBoom. He has been immersed in the areas of renewable energy and climate change for two years. Before joining EnergyBoom, Nathanael was the Director of Research for the DeSmog Blog. In this role his services included providing research to the New York Times and The Economist. A resident of Vancouver, BC, Nathanael has previously written and performed research for the British Columbia Provincial Government. Nathanael holds a B.A. in History from the University of Victoria.


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Re: Green by Necessity is China’s New National Plan


China's New National Plan: Green by Necessity

November 29, 2010 by Warren Karlenzig

low carbon d.JPG

China's new national 2011-2015 economic plan–essentially also its green blueprint–is now starting to be unveiled, then will be finalized by the People's Congress in March. China is aiming at reforming the world's second largest economy by optimizing it for low-carbon, resource efficient and urban climate change-adapted performance, as it takes on 400 to 700 million more people in its teeming cities as part of the world's most ambitious socio-economic transformation.


"China is the earliest developing country in the world to map out its plan for ecological growth," said Wang Ronghua, President of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, at the Fourth World Forum on China Studies, held earlier in November. "It will be a daunting task to restructure. There is a huge amount of funding available for this effort. This is being done because in the next three decades China will not be able to support 1.3 billion or more people." (China currently has more than 1.33 billion people.)


The new national "12th Five-Year Plan" (twelfth, that is, since formation as the People's Republic in 1949), covers its industrial, economic and social development. The gist of the new plan:  a new focus on quality of development rather than on quantity only. China wants to strengthen the nation's low-carbon economy while trying to repair the extensive environmental and human health damage it has sustained during its 30-year race to lead global industrial production.


The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) included goals of lowering energy consumption per unit of GDP. For China's provincial and city governments that means energy consumption per unit of GDP must decrease by 20 percent in 2010 compared to 2005.


With its new national plan, China is now building on the goal of energy efficiency with a more full-scale sustainability agenda, featuring reduced carbon intensity (cutting carbon emissions per every unit of economic output, or GDP) combined with overall environmental restoration and management practices. This focus will increase investments in renewables, information and communications technologies, advanced transportation and materials, water supply and treatment technologies (including using plants for bioremediation), and air and water quality. In other words, China is trying to improve its quality of life, which would benefit investment, tourism, and ecosystem services, not to mention the health of humans, along with animal and marine species.


Part of this strategy rests upon moving the nation from being "factory to the world" to becoming a provider of services such as information and communications technologies, financial services, and other less-polluting business sectors, while also maintaining a global lead in manufacturing clean energy and other "value-added" technologies for export.


Draft language from the new Plan that was read to me during my recent visit to China includes the directive for government officials to comprehensively, "Use technology and administration to transform mode of development to an eco-friendly and low-carbon lifestyle. Ensure that economic development confirms with environmental protection." It was announced last week that the nation is also preparing to comprehensively monitor chemical and organic pollutants in both the air and water: currently only 200 pollutants are monitored versus 1,200 in the United States.  Ambitious goals, yes, but China appears to be willing to attempt to back them on the ground.


The country began this summer a national low-carbon pilot program focused on five provinces and eight cities. Through the pilot programs, it is attempting to leverage best-of-breed strategies and tactics from localized sustainability plans, projects and methods. This simultaneous top-down (12th Five Year Plan) and regional approach (pilots) will likely make China even more competitive in the development of new clean energy technologies and services.


China has already surpassed all other nations in the production of PV solar and wind technologies: one showcase city is the renewable production center of Baoding, a city of one million near Beijing with more than 20,000 new clean energy jobs in three years. Baoding is the smallest of China's eight pilot low carbon cities. The largest pilot is almost-megacity Shenzhen, with a population of nine million. In all, the pilot provinces and cities comprise 27 percent of the nation's population and 36 percent of China's national Gross Domestic Product. China is providing incentives for its cleantech companies through subsidies to manufacturers of solar film, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, and it is offering subsidies to consumers to purchase electric cars.


My observations and findings are fresh from a visit in October and earlier this month. I was a UN delegate to a one-day summit on "Urban Innovation and Sustainable Development," which was held as part of the closing ceremonies of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai ("Better City, Better Life"), the largest world expo ever in terms of size, attendance, global participation and investment. The development of low carbon and green technologies, along with public education on moving toward more sustainable behaviors, was the key theme in the four pavilions sponsored by China and visited by tens of millions of Chinese citizens.


At the headquarters of its all-powerful State Council in Beijing, I met with national government and academic sector experts about development of China's green economic research and planning. Other representatives from the US and China-based Institute for Strategic Resilience and I were briefed at the State Council by economic, eco-city and low-carbon experts from the China Center for International Educational Exchanges, a top national think tank affiliated with the State Council. My itinerary included a visit with government officials in a medium-sized city for a glimpse of how local governments in China are already attempting to balance sustainability management with economic development. More about the local angle in my next post.


During the excellent Fourth World Forum on China Studies in Shanghai, I was invited to present along with 20 academic, corporate and government experts on "Green Development." (More than 300 China experts participated in the overall forum, most of them from China.)

At the opening of the Green Development Sub Forum, Professor Wang Ronghua, a well-known editor on Deng Xiaoping's theories, ticked down a list of the nation's current state, making it obvious why China is moving toward comprehensive sustainability planning, measurement and management:


Water and Wastewater:


"Fresh water supply is in danger because of rapid depletion–heavy industrial growth has caused the consumption of too much water." Wang Ronghua said. "China is one the most water scarce countries in the world. Lakes and rivers are viewed as sinks in which to discharge wastewater. Hebei province's lakes were once beautiful. Now they are highly lethal, the same with the Yellow and other rivers. Fresh water will become more scarce than oil in China, which is an inconceivable future."


Resource and Energy Use:


"The consumption of mineral resources is occurring faster than production because of crude modes of production rather than making better uses of natural resources. China uses 17 percent of the world's total energy supply: it used 2.8 billion tons of coal in 2009, which will rise to 10 billion tons by 2030, which means China will rely on imported energy as it only produces four tons per year." (From 2007 to 2009, China's moved to being a net coal importer for the first time in its history. Oil imports also reached 52 percent in 2009, while its new car sales surpassed those of the US for the first time the same year. National car ownership will multiply by a factor of three or more between now and 2020.)


Land Use and Planning: "There are dilemmas about how to protect and make better use of land resources. Too much land is consigned for development and conceded, especially in coastal and eastern China. In Shanghai, five years' supply of land planned for new development has been used up in one year."


Waste: "Ninety percent of urban waste is landfilled. Garbage is increasing at 10 percent annually–out of six hundred big cities, one third are besieged by garbage and waste."

Air Pollution and Climate Change: "Acid rain and CO2 emissions will double by 2020.  High-polluting industries are also pillar industries."  (Beijing's air pollution recently was said to be at a "crazy bad" level on Twitter by the US Embassy, which was later deleted and changed to "beyond index." ) The Asian Development Bank estimated in 2008 that more than half of the world's increase in greenhouse gases through 2027 will come from Asian cities, a majority of that increase from the cities of China.


The most urgent challenge will be getting changes made at local levels. Ronghua said that the "costs of breaking the law are too low, there is not enough enforcement or enforcement is uneven with the same violation receiving different punishment."


Through its State Council and its operational arm, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), China is actively considering how it can develop models and indicators that will guide ecological restoration and green economic development in conjunction with traditional economic measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As part of its low carbon pilot province and city programs, regional and local governments are pledging to reduce carbon intensity, or carbon emissions per unit of GDP economic output, by up to 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. (See today's advertising supplement from China Daily, which also appeared on p. A12 of the New York Times).


There is a growing acknowledgment in China that economic growth cannot be an all-consuming goal. For 30 years, with an average annual national growth rate of 10 percent , China's GDP has for many years surpassed growth of other nations, but at what cost?

Zhou Fengqi, Director of the Center for Eco-Economy and Sustainable Development at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, spoke of the need for systemic change in China: "China needs to change from the consumption of products to consumption of services."


Exactly how China will achieve its ambitious goals for a greener national economy now will emerge from numerous releases and announcements surrounding the new 12th Five Year Plan. Key to its success will be how systemically national leadership can help develop objective measures for provincial and city leaders that provide clear and consistent goals for industries, business and citizens.


It's time for China to look at its cities, communities and centers of expertise for leadership and scalable solutions to help reverse the degradation of nature and quality of human life–along with the damage to its economy–that has occurred (or will occur) because of air, water and soil pollution, and global climate change. While many restorative activities will help bring new economic growth opportunities, they will also ensure that China has a base of natural resources for its cities that can sustain a viable quality of life.


The country must now decouple its economic growth from manufacturing while incorporating a more diversified (and less material intensive) base, in order to remain economically viable in the future. Said Wang Ronghua, "Instead of only focusing on GDP measurements, the government needs to provide more parameters on ecology and living standards, including improvement of culture."


Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active consultancy based in San Anselmo, California. He is a Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and co-author of a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.


Scott's Contracting
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http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com
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Re: GLOBE Alliance Will Advocate for Sustainability

GLOBE Alliance Will Advocate for Sustainability Worldwide

The Global Leadership in Our Built Environment Alliance has issued a call for partners to help fight climate change by advancing sustainable design.

 

The U.S. Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council (WGBC) announced during Greenbuild 2010 a call for partners to join a new international alliance that will advocate sustainable design and building as a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

The newly formed Global Leadership in Our Built Environment (GLOBE) Alliance will work globally to raise awareness among policymakers, financial institutions, and United Nations bodies of the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable design, construction, and energy-efficient building operations and to increase support for cost-effective investment in sustainable building practices. According to GLOBE, the building sector represents the greatest and most cost-effective potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions out of all the other industrial or manufacturing sectors in the world.

"There's tremendous growth in the developing world and in those countries' building sectors," says Jason Hartke, vice president of national policy for the USGBC, who was deeply involved in the development of GLOBE. "What we don't want is for these developing countries—who will represent 97 percent of the projected increase in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030—to lock in the current inefficiencies in their building sectors."

GLOBE will seek to influence national and international policies to increase green building activity; to promote strategies for overcoming the technical, regulatory, and financial barriers to advancing green building; and to educate policymakers and thought leaders so they can advance the cause within their realms.

"Forty-six green building councils, representing over half of our membership, are in developing nations," says WGBC CEO Jane Henley. "We believe the inclusion of the built environment in financial tools geared toward lowering emissions, like carbon trading, will support local economic development in these countries while helping solve this important global issue."

While to date 40 organizations and companies from diverse industries around the world have joined GLOBE as partners, the alliance is calling for additional supporters. All GLOBE members are equal partners in achieving the organization's goals, according to Hartke. "Everybody is coming together to help shape, refine, and strengthen our message and its delivery to global policymakers and international financial institutions," he says.

Partner organizations currently include the American Institute of Architects, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Urban Land Institute, Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand, Romania Green Building Council, Center for American Progress, China Urban Realty Association Green Building Committee, National Institute of Building Sciences, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, among many others.

To learn more about the GLOBE Alliance, visit www.globealliance.org.



Scott's Contracting
scottscontracting@gmail.com
http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com
http://scottscontracting.wordpress.com

Re: Analysts say ignoring global warming will cost the nation

Nov 19, 2010 Portsmouth Herald

Deborah McDermott

Nov. 19, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) — Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a three-part look at the conference, "Sustainable Future: How Can our Nation Turn the Corner on the Economy and the Environment, and can N.H. Lead the Way?"

MANCHESTER — Economists and political strategists attending an economic summit Thursday said it is critical for New Hampshire, New England and the country to understand that climate change has to be part of the equation in forging a solution to the current fiscal and monetary crisis.

The speakers were among a number of national and state analysts attending a conference on the economy at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester and sponsored by the Concord Coalition and the UNH Whittemore School of Business.

"This intersection of environment and the economy in the state and the country is of critical importance," said UNH economics professor Ross Gittell. "They are a package for both environmental and fiscal sustainability."

Speaking with Gittell were Charles Colgan, economics professor from the University of Southern Maine; Ken Colburn, environmental policy director at Stonyfield Farms; and Richard Ober, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

All said climate change is a reality, and if Granite-Staters and Americans continue to deny that, the problem will get much more expensive to address, and quickly.

"If you think reducing emissions is expensive, try adapting to a world in which climate change" is the norm, Colburn said.

A good way to deal with the problem is by carbon taxing, said Colgan and Colburn.

"If you want less of something, tax it," Colburn said. "Taxes are a disincentive. Let's tax things we don't want rather than desirable activities."

Colburn conducted a study analyzing the amount of revenue the state of New Hampshire could generate if it instituted a carbon tax. According to his calculations, if the state priced carbon at $10 per ton, paid for through a gas tax hike of 9 cents, the state could raise between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. He said the money could be used to reduce the state's budget shortfall or to invest in businesses.

He admitted that, over time, as carbon dioxide was reduced, the revenue stream would shrink, but that's the whole idea.

Colburn said a number of countries have adopted carbon taxes, and China, which he just visited, is considering them.

He said of his visit, "We here in America pride ourselves on our 'can-do attitude,' but I see a lot more of it there. They're playing a really good game of chess, and we're, at best, checkers players."

Colgan said he believes it's important to come at the current fiscal challeges with more of a scalpel approach.

"Reductions in public spending can't be about just dealing with less," he said. "We're faced with some things we have to do more of, even as we do less with others. If we don't, our chances of getting through the next couple of decades is greatly diminished. The basic idea is how do we set up incentives between fiscal capital and natural capital?"

He said northern New England and the country as a whole need to deal with sprawl — "low density, single family residences, reliance on automobiles, allowing the private housing market to provide affordable housing. We have created a very expensive way to live, and it's distributed among local, state and federal governments. How much more of this are we going to continue to do?"

Another important factor for New England, he said, is "this huge problem that is going to be imposed upon us by nature."

Colgan said, even if global warming were to stop tomorrow, the sea level is still expected to rise five to eight inches in the next 30 years. This is going to translate into costs for storm damage, road deterioration and stormwater problems. "Whether we're borrowing money to repair storm damage or roads, we're going to have to deal with these things," he said.

Ober said New Hampshire, in particular, has to put its efforts into "tightening up" the estimated 500,000 buildings in the state, to put people to work and to reduce dependence on foreign oil. He said the effort should start with public buildings, which would save taxpayer money over the long run. "If we can't get it right with public buildings, can we have a chance of getting it right in the broader free market?"

Gittell asked why more people in the state and nation haven't been convinced of the reality of climate change.

"The stresses of the last couple of years has gone a great distance in undermining confidence in authoritative comments by anyone," Colgan said. "That makes it very difficult to get to the discussions we need to have."

"Another piece of this is, 'Will we allow this to happen to us?' If oil continues to climb and heating oil is $4, $4.50 a gallon and stays there, what will that do to us and are we really going to allow that to happen?" Ober said.

"There's a pretty concerted effort to keep climate change from raising its head in Washington," said Colburn. "We wonder why businesses don't go to Washington and say, 'It's OK to do this (a carbon tax).' But it's not their job. Winners go to market. Losers go to Washington."

Newstex ID: KRTB-1543-50922891



Scott's Contracting
scottscontracting@gmail.com
http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com
http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com
scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com

Analysts say ignoring global warming will cost the nation

Nov 19, 2010 Portsmouth Herald
Deborah McDermott

Nov. 19, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) — Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a three-part look at the conference, "Sustainable Future: How Can our Nation Turn the Corner on the Economy and the Environment, and can N.H. Lead the Way?"

MANCHESTER — Economists and political strategists attending an economic summit Thursday said it is critical for New Hampshire, New England and the country to understand that climate change has to be part of the equation in forging a solution to the current fiscal and monetary crisis.

The speakers were among a number of national and state analysts attending a conference on the economy at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester and sponsored by the Concord Coalition and the UNH Whittemore School of Business.

"This intersection of environment and the economy in the state and the country is of critical importance," said UNH economics professor Ross Gittell. "They are a package for both environmental and fiscal sustainability."

Speaking with Gittell were Charles Colgan, economics professor from the University of Southern Maine; Ken Colburn, environmental policy director at Stonyfield Farms; and Richard Ober, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

All said climate change is a reality, and if Granite-Staters and Americans continue to deny that, the problem will get much more expensive to address, and quickly.

"If you think reducing emissions is expensive, try adapting to a world in which climate change" is the norm, Colburn said.

A good way to deal with the problem is by carbon taxing, said Colgan and Colburn.

"If you want less of something, tax it," Colburn said. "Taxes are a disincentive. Let’s tax things we don’t want rather than desirable activities."

Colburn conducted a study analyzing the amount of revenue the state of New Hampshire could generate if it instituted a carbon tax. According to his calculations, if the state priced carbon at $10 per ton, paid for through a gas tax hike of 9 cents, the state could raise between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. He said the money could be used to reduce the state’s budget shortfall or to invest in businesses.

He admitted that, over time, as carbon dioxide was reduced, the revenue stream would shrink, but that’s the whole idea.

Colburn said a number of countries have adopted carbon taxes, and China, which he just visited, is considering them.

He said of his visit, "We here in America pride ourselves on our ‘can-do attitude,’ but I see a lot more of it there. They’re playing a really good game of chess, and we’re, at best, checkers players."

Colgan said he believes it’s important to come at the current fiscal challeges with more of a scalpel approach.

"Reductions in public spending can’t be about just dealing with less," he said. "We’re faced with some things we have to do more of, even as we do less with others. If we don’t, our chances of getting through the next couple of decades is greatly diminished. The basic idea is how do we set up incentives between fiscal capital and natural capital?"

He said northern New England and the country as a whole need to deal with sprawl — "low density, single family residences, reliance on automobiles, allowing the private housing market to provide affordable housing. We have created a very expensive way to live, and it’s distributed among local, state and federal governments. How much more of this are we going to continue to do?"

Another important factor for New England, he said, is "this huge problem that is going to be imposed upon us by nature."

Colgan said, even if global warming were to stop tomorrow, the sea level is still expected to rise five to eight inches in the next 30 years. This is going to translate into costs for storm damage, road deterioration and stormwater problems. "Whether we’re borrowing money to repair storm damage or roads, we’re going to have to deal with these things," he said.

Ober said New Hampshire, in particular, has to put its efforts into "tightening up" the estimated 500,000 buildings in the state, to put people to work and to reduce dependence on foreign oil. He said the effort should start with public buildings, which would save taxpayer money over the long run. "If we can’t get it right with public buildings, can we have a chance of getting it right in the broader free market?"

Gittell asked why more people in the state and nation haven’t been convinced of the reality of climate change.

"The stresses of the last couple of years has gone a great distance in undermining confidence in authoritative comments by anyone," Colgan said. "That makes it very difficult to get to the discussions we need to have."

"Another piece of this is, ‘Will we allow this to happen to us?’ If oil continues to climb and heating oil is $4, $4.50 a gallon and stays there, what will that do to us and are we really going to allow that to happen?" Ober said.

"There’s a pretty concerted effort to keep climate change from raising its head in Washington," said Colburn. "We wonder why businesses don’t go to Washington and say, ‘It’s OK to do this (a carbon tax).’ But it’s not their job. Winners go to market. Losers go to Washington."

Newstex ID: KRTB-1543-50922891

GLOBE Alliance Will Advocate for Sustainability

GLOBE Alliance Will Advocate for Sustainability Worldwide

The Global Leadership in Our Built Environment Alliance has issued a call for partners to help fight climate change by advancing sustainable design.

By:Stephani L. Miller

The U.S. Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council (WGBC) announced during Greenbuild 2010 a call for partners to join a new international alliance that will advocate sustainable design and building as a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

The newly formed Global Leadership in Our Built Environment (GLOBE) Alliance will work globally to raise awareness among policymakers, financial institutions, and United Nations bodies of the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable design, construction, and energy-efficient building operations and to increase support for cost-effective investment in sustainable building practices. According to GLOBE, the building sector represents the greatest and most cost-effective potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions out of all the other industrial or manufacturing sectors in the world.

"There’s tremendous growth in the developing world and in those countries’ building sectors," says Jason Hartke, vice president of national policy for the USGBC, who was deeply involved in the development of GLOBE. "What we don’t want is for these developing countries—who will represent 97 percent of the projected increase in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030—to lock in the current inefficiencies in their building sectors."

GLOBE will seek to influence national and international policies to increase green building activity; to promote strategies for overcoming the technical, regulatory, and financial barriers to advancing green building; and to educate policymakers and thought leaders so they can advance the cause within their realms.

"Forty-six green building councils, representing over half of our membership, are in developing nations," says WGBC CEO Jane Henley. "We believe the inclusion of the built environment in financial tools geared toward lowering emissions, like carbon trading, will support local economic development in these countries while helping solve this important global issue."

While to date 40 organizations and companies from diverse industries around the world have joined GLOBE as partners, the alliance is calling for additional supporters. All GLOBE members are equal partners in achieving the organization’s goals, according to Hartke. "Everybody is coming together to help shape, refine, and strengthen our message and its delivery to global policymakers and international financial institutions," he says.

Partner organizations currently include the American Institute of Architects, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Urban Land Institute, Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand, Romania Green Building Council, Center for American Progress, China Urban Realty Association Green Building Committee, National Institute of Building Sciences, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, among many others.

To learn more about the GLOBE Alliance, visit www.globealliance.org.

Green by Necessity is China’s New National Plan

China’s New National Plan: Green by Necessity

Tags: Alternative EnergyBest PracticesCase Studieschinalow carbon economyPolicySustainabilityTransportationUrban EconomicsWater

November 29, 2010 by Warren Karlenzig

low carbon d.JPG

China’s new national 2011-2015 economic plan–essentially also its green blueprint–is now starting to be unveiled, then will be finalized by the People’s Congress in March. China is aiming at reforming the world’s second largest economy by optimizing it for low-carbon, resource efficient and urban climate change-adapted performance, as it takes on 400 to 700 million more people in its teeming cities as part of the world’s most ambitious socio-economic transformation.

"China is the earliest developing country in the world to map out its plan for ecological growth," said Wang Ronghua, President of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, at the Fourth World Forum on China Studies, held earlier in November. "It will be a daunting task to restructure. There is a huge amount of funding available for this effort. This is being done because in the next three decades China will not be able to support 1.3 billion or more people." (China currently has more than 1.33 billion people.)

The new national "12th Five-Year Plan" (twelfth, that is, since formation as the People’s Republic in 1949), covers its industrial, economic and social development. The gist of the new plan: a new focus on quality of development rather than on quantity only. China wants to strengthen the nation’s low-carbon economy while trying to repair the extensive environmental and human health damage it has sustained during its 30-year race to lead global industrial production.

The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) included goals of lowering energy consumption per unit of GDP. For China’s provincial and city governments that means energy consumption per unit of GDP must decrease by 20 percent in 2010 compared to 2005.

With its new national plan, China is now building on the goal of energy efficiency with a more full-scale sustainability agenda, featuring reduced carbon intensity (cutting carbon emissions per every unit of economic output, or GDP) combined with overall environmental restoration and management practices. This focus will increase investments in renewables, information and communications technologies, advanced transportation and materials, water supply and treatment technologies (including using plants for bioremediation), and air and water quality. In other words, China is trying to improve its quality of life, which would benefit investment, tourism, and ecosystem services, not to mention the health of humans, along with animal and marine species.

Part of this strategy rests upon moving the nation from being "factory to the world" to becoming a provider of services such as information and communications technologies, financial services, and other less-polluting business sectors, while also maintaining a global lead in manufacturing clean energy and other "value-added" technologies for export.

Draft language from the new Plan that was read to me during my recent visit to China includes the directive for government officials to comprehensively, "Use technology and administration to transform mode of development to an eco-friendly and low-carbon lifestyle. Ensure that economic development confirms with environmental protection." It was announced last week that the nation is also preparing to comprehensively monitor chemical and organic pollutants in both the air and water: currently only 200 pollutants are monitored versus 1,200 in the United States. Ambitious goals, yes, but China appears to be willing to attempt to back them on the ground.

The country began this summer a national low-carbon pilot program focused on five provinces and eight cities. Through the pilot programs, it is attempting to leverage best-of-breed strategies and tactics from localized sustainability plans, projects and methods. This simultaneous top-down (12th Five Year Plan) and regional approach (pilots) will likely make China even more competitive in the development of new clean energy technologies and services.

China has already surpassed all other nations in the production of PV solar and wind technologies: one showcase city is the renewable production center of Baoding, a city of one million near Beijing with more than 20,000 new clean energy jobs in three years. Baoding is the smallest of China’s eight pilot low carbon cities. The largest pilot is almost-megacity Shenzhen, with a population of nine million. In all, the pilot provinces and cities comprise 27 percent of the nation’s population and 36 percent of China’s national Gross Domestic Product. China is providing incentives for its cleantech companies through subsidies to manufacturers of solar film, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, and it is offering subsidies to consumers to purchase electric cars.

My observations and findings are fresh from a visit in October and earlier this month. I was a UN delegate to a one-day summit on "Urban Innovation and Sustainable Development," which was held as part of the closing ceremonies of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai ("Better City, Better Life"), the largest world expo ever in terms of size, attendance, global participation and investment. The development of low carbon and green technologies, along with public education on moving toward more sustainable behaviors, was the key theme in the four pavilions sponsored by China and visited by tens of millions of Chinese citizens.

At the headquarters of its all-powerful State Council in Beijing, I met with national government and academic sector experts about development of China’s green economic research and planning. Other representatives from the US and China-based Institute for Strategic Resilience and I were briefed at the State Council by economic, eco-city and low-carbon experts from the China Center for International Educational Exchanges, a top national think tank affiliated with the State Council. My itinerary included a visit with government officials in a medium-sized city for a glimpse of how local governments in China are already attempting to balance sustainability management with economic development. More about the local angle in my next post.

During the excellent Fourth World Forum on China Studies in Shanghai, I was invited to present along with 20 academic, corporate and government experts on "Green Development." (More than 300 China experts participated in the overall forum, most of them from China.)

At the opening of the Green Development Sub Forum, Professor Wang Ronghua, a well-known editor on Deng Xiaoping’s theories, ticked down a list of the nation’s current state, making it obvious why China is moving toward comprehensive sustainability planning, measurement and management:

Water and Wastewater:

"Fresh water supply is in danger because of rapid depletion–heavy industrial growth has caused the consumption of too much water." Wang Ronghua said. "China is one the most water scarce countries in the world. Lakes and rivers are viewed as sinks in which to discharge wastewater. Hebei province’s lakes were once beautiful. Now they are highly lethal, the same with the Yellow and other rivers. Fresh water will become more scarce than oil in China, which is an inconceivable future."

Resource and Energy Use:

"The consumption of mineral resources is occurring faster than production because of crude modes of production rather than making better uses of natural resources. China uses 17 percent of the world’s total energy supply: it used 2.8 billion tons of coal in 2009, which will rise to 10 billion tons by 2030, which means China will rely on imported energy as it only produces four tons per year." (From 2007 to 2009, China’s moved to being a net coal importer for the first time in its history. Oil imports also reached 52 percent in 2009, while its new car sales surpassed those of the US for the first time the same year. National car ownership will multiply by a factor of three or more between now and 2020.)

Land Use and Planning: "There are dilemmas about how to protect and make better use of land resources. Too much land is consigned for development and conceded, especially in coastal and eastern China. In Shanghai, five years’ supply of land planned for new development has been used up in one year."

Waste: "Ninety percent of urban waste is landfilled. Garbage is increasing at 10 percent annually–out of six hundred big cities, one third are besieged by garbage and waste."

Air Pollution and Climate Change: "Acid rain and CO2 emissions will double by 2020. High-polluting industries are also pillar industries." (Beijing’s air pollution recently was said to be at a "crazy bad" level on Twitter by the US Embassy, which was later deleted and changed to "beyond index.") The Asian Development Bank estimated in 2008 that more than half of the world’s increase in greenhouse gases through 2027 will come from Asian cities, a majority of that increase from the cities of China.

The most urgent challenge will be getting changes made at local levels. Ronghua said that the "costs of breaking the law are too low, there is not enough enforcement or enforcement is uneven with the same violation receiving different punishment."

Through its State Council and its operational arm, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), China is actively considering how it can develop models and indicators that will guide ecological restoration and green economic development in conjunction with traditional economic measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As part of its low carbon pilot province and city programs, regional and local governments are pledging to reduce carbon intensity, or carbon emissions per unit of GDP economic output, by up to 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. (See today’s advertising supplement from China Daily, which also appeared on p. A12 of the New York Times).

There is a growing acknowledgment in China that economic growth cannot be an all-consuming goal. For 30 years, with an average annual national growth rate of 10 percent, China’s GDP has for many years surpassed growth of other nations, but at what cost?

Zhou Fengqi, Director of the Center for Eco-Economy and Sustainable Development at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, spoke of the need for systemic change in China: "China needs to change from the consumption of products to consumption of services."

Exactly how China will achieve its ambitious goals for a greener national economy now will emerge from numerous releases and announcements surrounding the new 12th Five Year Plan. Key to its success will be how systemically national leadership can help develop objective measures for provincial and city leaders that provide clear and consistent goals for industries, business and citizens.

It’s time for China to look at its cities, communities and centers of expertise for leadership and scalable solutions to help reverse the degradation of nature and quality of human life–along with the damage to its economy–that has occurred (or will occur) because of air, water and soil pollution, and global climate change. While many restorative activities will help bring new economic growth opportunities, they will also ensure that China has a base of natural resources for its cities that can sustain a viable quality of life.

The country must now decouple its economic growth from manufacturing while incorporating a more diversified (and less material intensive) base, in order to remain economically viable in the future. Said Wang Ronghua, "Instead of only focusing on GDP measurements, the government needs to provide more parameters on ecology and living standards, including improvement of culture."

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active consultancy based in San Anselmo, California. He is a Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and co-author of a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.