Changhua Wu: We need a more profound change to clean our energy structure

25 June 2013

Changhua Wu is the Greater China Director of The Climate Group. In her Blog, Changhua comments on Chinese climate policy and the growth of clean technologies; in short, sharing China's own Clean Revolution. Here, she comments on the ten air pollution prevention and control measures that Premier Li Keqiang announced in China last week.

Changhua writes:

On June 14, Premier Li Keqiang announced ten air pollution prevention and control measures. See them here

And how do I interpret these ten initiatives? There are many positives to take away from them, and I'd like to focus on the first seven in particular.

The first measure places energy saving and emissions reduction in a much-welcomed prominent position. By controlling high energy consumption and high-pollution industry projects, and by strengthening the energy constraints of environmental indicators as well as industrial transformation and upgrading, we can achieve binding, energy-saving targets.

The second measure is to optimize our clean energy structure by reducing China’s over-reliance on coal, with particular emphasis on increasing natural gas, coal methane and other clean energy supplies. As a country rich in coal resources, there are many advantages to using clean coal conversion and diversified cleaner energy structures. This new energy strategy can help form cleaner optimization and energy security.

High pollution areas

Third as a key target is to target excess capacity in high-energy consumption and high-pollution industries – namely steel, cement, electrolytic aluminium and glass – by establishing more stringent emission reduction targets, decreasing 30% to 2017 as well as laws and standards of "forced" industrial upgrading. All much-needed measures.

The fourth measure includes targeting urban areas, including Beijing and the Pearl River Delta, to establish a regional joint-prevention mechanism; and at the same time, the implementation of and compliance with "decentralization" to the local government level; all of which is subject to local air quality. The subsequent regularly published key urban air quality rankings will become an important means of urging greater action.

The fifth measure on transportation is an important improvement in the field of air quality and improving fuel quality. We have long been in need of developing public transport and limiting vehicle emissions.

Policy safeguards

More policy safeguards have also been announced, including emphasis on a more thorough implementation of the EIA, "green one-vote veto", as well as on land policies, bank loans, water and electricity connections, a green credit system and EIA system hooks.

Meanwhile, there is also a much-needed emphasis on air pollution control credit support, with the fiscal and financial means to promote the development of related industries and pollution control.

The seventh point is also important, as it recognizes that public behavior change is the basis for popular mobilization, participation in environmental protection and air quality monitoring.

Greater change

While these ten measures will be effective in improving the positive impacts of regional air quality, if the measures intend to fundamentally solve the larger Chinese territories’ air quality, they need further thought and exploration.

I think they are only first-stage, exploratory measures to solving China's environmental problems. We need a more profound change in order to endure the upfront cost challenges initial change will bring.

An even deeper change is needed to clean the whole energy structure, including:

  • clean coal utilization
  • optimizing the industrial structure and the ecological "zero" negative impact on the overall upgrade
  • technological innovation and manufacturing upgrades
  • we need also need change from design to operation, from management to material life cycle application of the "vertical integration", and from inclusiveness to innovation.

Collaborative efforts

This transformation requires state and local managers to establish ecological civilization construction management concepts and codes of conduct. It requires companies to establish a more stringent legal and policy environment, encouraging creativity and longing for change. It also requires the majority of consumers to enhance environmental awareness and behavior change.

When we complain about air quality pollution, we must clearly recognize that improving the environment is to pay a high upfront-cost, but at the same time, the idea of paying for the environment must also gradually become accepted in wider society.

We are the perpetrators of the problem; and now we have to strive to become problem-solvers, among which the short-term cost must be paid by the government, business and society together, to secure a better future for all of us.

This week I participated in the China Radio International "Today" show live, focusing on the ten measures. Listen here.

Read more on Changhua Wu's blog.

Related news:

China announces ten “tough measures” to combat atmospheric pollution

China unveils pioneering carbon trading scheme in Shenzhen

New Premier Li Keqiang pledges to use ‘iron fist’ on China’s pollution

China invested $65.1 billion in clean energy in 2012

China’s leadership transition: ready to drive the clean revolution


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