NRDC's Side Event in Tianjin: Highlighting how Countries are Taking Action Now to Address Climate Change

From November 4-9, for the first time in its nearly twenty year history, the UN negotiations to forge a collective, global response to address climate change came to China, marking a landmark in China’s participation in and support of the UN climate negotiations process. 

NRDC, which has been working to implement clean energy projects in China for 15 years, held a side event during the conference that highlighted the many significant actions that key developing countries are already taking to build a clean energy future and reduce the impacts of climate change.  My colleagues and I, joined by Professor Joanna Lewis from Georgetown University, highlighted some of the significant actions that key developing countries including China are already taking to address climate change and mitigate emissions, including:

  • China’s commitment to reducing its carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, and why this is significant;
  • China’s strong renewable energy laws and policies, which have, among other things, helped China to grow its windpower resources from almost nothing to second in the world (just behind the US) in just the last 5 years; and
  • China’s construction of a “strong, smart grid” (with the emphasis on strong) which can help integrate greater amounts of clean, renewable power. 

These three issues are discussed in greater detail in three working papers released at our side event—click here to download the reports as well as our presentation slides.  The 2010 China Windpower Outlook released last week by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace, has good analysis of China’s wind sector and projects that China could develop over 230 GW of windpower by 2020 in its most ambitious scenarios.

Like China, India is also taking actions to become a leader in clean energy, including:

  • establishing a national solar mission with the goal of developing 20 gigawatts of solar power by 2022;
  • establishing an energy efficiency mission aimed at reducing annual energy consumption by 5 percent by 2015 and improving industrial and appliance efficiency;
  • putting in place mandatory fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks by 2011;
  • establishing a coal tax of 50 rupees per ton of coal, which funds a National Clean Energy Fund; and
  • releasing its national GHG inventory of its 2007 emissions, making India the first developing country to publish an inventory for such a recent year. 

(See my colleague Jacob Scherr’s presentation for more details on India’s actions to address climate change.)

The message here is clear—smart policymakers are not standing still, but are taking actions now to make sure that their countries are going to be early adopters, manufacturers and innovators of the clean energy technologies and know-how that will help their countries to address climate change, improve their citizens’ health and environment, and reduce their dependence on dirty, polluting and unsustainable fossil fuels.

Even as negotiators continue to discuss the very important issues crucial to forging a global climate agreement—financing for developing countries, mitigation targets and actions, improving reporting on emissions and actions—it is important that their governments back home not wait. 

The next decade will be crucial for developing and strengthening the technologies and policies that will enable the global community to address the threat of climate change.  The time to start is now.