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Christmas, 2011: Reviewing the year

24 December 2011
Christmas, 2011: Reviewing the year

By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director

(December 24, 2011)

Christmas in Beijing is very boring. There is no white snow to render the atmosphere, or cheery Christmas songs that linger all day like in the US or Europe. Although many buildings are decorated with Christmas trees and other Christmas ornaments, they feel so artificial - and not very touching.

While many of my colleagues head off on holiday for the festive celebrations, many of us are still busy with the bidding of our latest projects. And as the leader of this team, it is my responsibility to appreciate and summarize our efforts in 2011. Honestly, looking back, my heart is filled with a sense of accomplishment, because I am so content with the growth and progress of our team. 

Reviewing 2011, the industry that we engage in is so laden with conflicting signals. From a global process perspective, since the Copenhagen Summit the global process is more like a farce - a game - and a showcase for strategic manipulation.

The UN is being marginalized and becoming more like a tool, despite its roles and functions in many affairs. The UN is unable to truly lead in many significant international affairs and is beginning to look more weak and powerless when it comes to the climate change; such a common international affair that correlates so highly with national economic interests and competitiveness. These years, many people are calling for reform in the UN, which is almost impossible. This is because when the interests of almost 200 countries are competing on one platform, the situation becomes so intricate that no one is able to gain control. Therefore, the situation continues and countries keep on wrangling. Despite some minor adjustments, the global community is stuck in a mechanism designed and set up by it itself, unable to extricate.

The results at COP17 in Durban also reflected several problems. After the battle in Durban, countries began to express their own opinions. As an individual, it is very difficult to tell what is true and thus to decide whom to believe.

  • China has said that progress has been made during the Durban process and the second commitment period of the “Kyoto Protocol” was kept. Also, developed countries have an obligation to provide developing countries with financial and technical support;
  • the EU said that the victory of Durban lies in the fact that “big” economies, especially China, the United States and India have now been included in the framework of emission reduction commitments. Moreover, absolute emission reduction commitments must be made by these countries after 2020. 

In terms of these commitments after 2020, interpretations are not all the same. China’s view is to discuss the degree of emission reduction commitments on the basis of, “common but differentiated responsibilities”, whereas the EU emphasizes, “the absolute emission reduction commitments".

In this political atmosphere, the vast majority of the general public has to believe their own countries’ media positions, which results in different interpretations for the international process of climate change within the international community. Imagine if the American public read only daily news in China, and China’s public read only American news , what kind of changes would occur to our world today?

However, despite the difficult international political progress, some inspiring trends are happening in some countries, regions and industries. We think highly of China’s 12th Five Year Plan and call it China’s first “Green Development Plan”; we also highly value the effectiveness of action taken at the regional level in China. The active participation in cities and provinces in China is in great contrast to the international process. Regional governments in China are actively promoting technology innovation and capital investment based on regional competitiveness, development potential and prospects, which is again in great contrast to some countries' federal governments. The alignment of objectives at the local and national government level has laid a firm foundation for China’s improvement of competitiveness.

But it remains very difficult to tell whether this progress is sufficient to change the pattern of international climate change fast enough. There are two points worth noting. Firstly, the international progress, whether successful or not, cannot cut one ton of carbon emissions; the real action must come from various countries, regions, industries and enterprises. Therefore, this bottom-up trend is very inspiring. Secondly, this bottom-up trend really needs strong government support on the national level so as to improve the speed and effectiveness.

In addition, given the intensification of the international progress, the trend of international climate change policy is increasingly becoming a significant concern for governments and businesses. Ideally, the direction and progress of the international climate change progress could be aligned with the action taken in countries, regions and industries so as to complement each other.

Looking towards 2012, the world is becoming increasingly complicated. What seems to be a pure scientific identification issue of climate change at first has now been turned into an arena where countries’ economic and technology competitiveness is tested.

Future climate change issues will be a battle of power among nations to set the international standards and rules. This is also the most important driver to explain why countries including the United States, the EU, China and India won't give up easily.And so the cause becomes more complicated, mysterious and challenging. 

Read my blog post on 2012.

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