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China: New leadership, new views

23 November 2012
China: New leadership, new views

by Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.

(November 23, 2012) 

Today, a very often-asked question on China and climate change is how the new leadership views the issues and what steps are expected to be taken in the coming decade. Well, there seems no “mystery” around this question.

Clean revolution or eco-civilization has been clearly stated and elevated to the top agenda by the new leadership, which just took office in China. Domestically, the country will carry on its commitments to energy and resource saving and clean energy as laid out in its current 12th Five-Year Plan, while more ambitious policy targets are being explored including cap-and-trade, with seven local piloting schemes to take off in 2013.

Shifting fuel structure towards non-fossil-based energy is another national priority, with targets clearly set at national and local level, and programs and projects developed to promote the deployment of renewable energy at facility, community and city level.

Internationally, with Doha around the corner, the new leadership is expected to honor the current commitment of at least a 40-45% carbon intensity target by 2020 over the 2005 level. With increasing levels of confidence through domestic efforts, we could expect China to play a more constructive role in the international process.

I have encountered lots of expectations from around the world in terms of China’s leadership in global process. It really depends on how you define leadership. If it is about taking serious actions to tackle the challenges on the domestic front, I have to say that China has been an increasingly recognized leader with a demonstrable track record. If it is about global commitment to a more aggressive level, say capping the emissions in the near future, then I believe the new leadership will continue to examine the issue and make its commitment based on solid analysis and forecasting rather than on “passion”.

Though we don’t expect anything dramatic from the upcoming Doha process, we all know there are some fundamental elements that need to be secured in order to continue the international process, including a second commitment period, continued “common but differentiated responsibility principle” and clarity on the Green Climate Fund in terms of sources of capital, among other issues.

While increasing efforts made, and experience gained in mitigation, awareness is rising on inadequacies of efforts made on adaptation.

An emerging topic compared to mitigation experience, adaptation has become one of the focal issues for such international platforms as World Economic Forum, and one of the Forum’s 88 global agenda councils has been designated to take the lead to address this issue.

At the recently concluded Dubai Summit, the Council has agreed to convene the resources available to examine the matrix and climate smart financing matter, and engage the most critical stakeholders for action mobilization.

Equally critical is the fact that adaptation cannot be addressed in silos. Instead, it cuts across many other sectors including food and agriculture, water, energy, land use and coastal regions, emerging technologies and financing, among others.

To effectively address adaptation, it would require integration and connectivity to link up all the key issues in terms of knowledge, policy, resources, technology and capital.

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