Monday, August 4, 2008

China Investing More in Renewable Energy than U.S.

Again, for those who use the refrain, "What about China?" as an excuse for the U.S. to avoid taking action on climate change by ramping up renewable, low-carbon, DOMESTIC energy . . . take a look at what China is actually doing already.

China is actually ahead of the U.S. in dealing with many of these issues because they rightly perceive them as vital to their economic development and interest. We should too!
Renewables surge unleashing a 'low-carbon dragon'
Christa Marshall, ClimateWire reporter - Aug. 4, 2008

Dollar for dollar, China is investing more in renewable energy than the United States, even though the Asian giant remains the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide overall, a new report has found.

China poured almost $12 billion last year into wind, solar and other low-carbon technologies, placing it just behind Germany as the world's largest investor in alternative energy as a percentage of gross national product. China also is the global leader in total installed capacity of renewable power and is expected to be first in wind exports by 2009, riding a 120 percent surge in installation last year.

"For too long, many governments, businesses and individuals have been wary of committing to action on climate change because they perceive that China ... is doing little to address the issue. However, the reality is that China's government is beginning to unleash a low-carbon dragon," said Steve Howard, chief executive of the Climate Group, a coalition of companies and governments that released the study on Friday.

Other highlights from the report, which combined new and existing data:

  • China currently accounts for 24 percent of total global emissions of carbon dioxide, but its per capita carbon output is much lower than the United States', which constitutes 29 percent of the total. If the per-person carbon footprint of the average Chinese person were to equal that of the typical American, the Asian country's overall greenhouse gas emissions would match that of the entire planet.
  • China's fuel efficiency standards for cars are 40 percent higher than those in the United States. Following a 2006 law, it also taxes sports utility vehicles at a much higher rate, up to 20 percent, than compact cars, which are taxed at 3 percent.
  • The country plans to double the proportion of renewable energy it uses, from 8 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2020, with the bulk of that coming from 300 gigawatts of hydropower, followed by bioenergy (30 GW), wind (30 GW) and solar (1.8 GW) production.
  • China is second only to Japan in the manufacture of solar photovoltaic technology.
  • The percentage growth in some low-carbon industries in China far outpaces that of many other countries, including an average 20 percent annual growth rate in the market for solar water heaters.
  • The country's economy has reduced its energy intensity, or the ratio of its total energy consumed to its gross domestic product, by 60 percent since 1980.

Policies such as a 2006 renewable energy law mandating that utilities purchase renewable power and building efficiency design codes helped drive some of the statistics, the report said.

Still ramping up coal

Yet don't expect criticism of the country's global-warming record to go away. Despite China's green efforts, fossil fuels still provide 80 percent of its power, and the country is still building roughly one coal-fired power plant a week.

In a separate series of briefing papers released Friday, the Climate Group noted that 70 percent of China's new electricity capacity by 2030 will be based on coal if current trends continue.

"Under optimistic assumptions, this new coal-based capacity alone commits China to an additional four billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030 -- more than the European Union's total CO2 emissions today," wrote Michel Colombier and Emmanuel Guerin, of the Institut du Développement Durable et des Relations Internationales.

Furthermore, the country's reliance on hydropower has generated criticism. The Three Gorges Dam, which will be the world's largest hydropower project when it becomes operational in 2009, recently prompted protests for displacing more than a million people and worsening water pollution in surrounding areas.

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