I had the chance to catch up with Calvin Quek, Head of Sustainable Finance at Greenpeace East Asiabased in Beijing, and also the former executive director for the Beijing Energy Network, to discuss the recently announced 12th Five Year Energy Development Plan. See also previous post on this topic.
GLF: First of all congratulations, I saw that photo spread [link here] of you and your Greenpeace colleagues and, I must say, you are looking pretty hip and fashionable these days!
CQ: Thanks, thanks, what can I say, I’m just trying to keep up with you, and green is the new black.
New energy vehicles are one of China’sseven strategic emerging industries. Unlike its other “new energy” counterpart industries, NEVs, and electric vehicles in particular, are still waiting for commercial breakthrough.
China’s clean energy targets are usually just temporary placeholders. Targets for wind and solar power installed have been met, surpassed, and updated numerous times. New research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), however, suggests that China’s 2015 and 2020 targets for electric vehicle (EV) rollout will not be met due to “weak capability throughout the supply chain.” China has become a dominant force globally in wind and solar manufacturing and deployment; their supply chains are capable albeit recently consolidated with wavering demand in an oversupplied market. So why is that EV’s may not find similar success?
The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in airport smoking lounges. At its worst, Beijing air quality has approached levels only seen in the US during wildfires.
All of the comparisons to London, Los Angeles, and New York in the last century are beside the point. Air pollution at these concentrations constitutes a public health emergency. Fine particulate (PM2.5) concentrations of 250 µg/m3 are considered emergency levels. This past month, air pollution in Chinese cities has regularly been two, three, even four times this emergency threshold (and up to 40 times levels the WHO considers healthy). In the worst cases, people are literally dying from this pollution. And PM2.5 is only the tip of the iceberg. China’s air is brimming with a heady mix of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, lead, mercury, and other assorted pollutants.
The recent “airpocalypse” is just the latest in a long series of environmental disasters in China that have the world wondering whether a tipping point is imminent. Will it be China’s equivalent of Rachel Carson’sSilent Spring in the United States (or the Minamata mercury poisoning cases in Japan, or the Great Smog of 1952 in the United Kingdom)? That is, a catalyst for genuine environmental change?
Editors Note: We are pleased to announce that China water expert Christine Boyle has joined the GLF team as a contributor. Christine brings with her 15 years of environmental planning experience. She was previously a Fulbright Scholar in China and recently obtained her PhD from University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She will be blogging on topics related to water and agriculture.
I am thrilled to be joining the GLF team. In my inaugural post, I’d like to draw an explicit connection between climate change and its impacts on water and food security.
The current trajectory for global greenhouse gas emissions is rising faster than the most pessimistic emission scenarios envisioned in the 4th Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Despite large uncertainties, a recent World Bank report warns that it increasingly plausible that this has put the world on a 4° C average warming path within the 21st century.
Such climate developments, their implications, and the resulting potential impacts – some very likely, others masked by great uncertainty – are, of course, relevant for the large populace of China.
News over the past five days in many parts of northern China have centered around the unprecedented air pollution shrouding several northern cities, including the capital. The “Airpocalypse,” so dubbed by micro-bloggers, has elicited a strong, unambiguous response frot the public and the media – causing many to call a spade a spade by casting away euphemisms like fog in favor of more candid descriptors like smog andpollution. It has also inspired this poignant music video lamenting the lost of Beijing to the evil forces of pollution:
Posted by Geoffrey Henderson
China’s top steel-producing city—Tangshan, Hebei province—is undergoing campaigns to reduce smog through stringent pollution standards and to tackle overcapacity, which entail reduced production, plant shutdowns, and plant renovation. The smog campaigns are part of a larger program to address air pollution and limit coal consumption, while the effort to reduce overcapacity comes as China is working to restructure its economy by reducing the share of energy-intensive industry and increasing the share of services. According to the International Energy Agency (2014), in Hebei, China’s largest steel-producing province, the average estimated electricity price for electric arc furnace steel producers in 2013 was roughly $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh), compared to roughly $50/MWh in Indiana, the largest steel-producing state in the U.S. It is noteworthy that under the recently finalized U.S. Clean Power Plan, EPA modeling projects that in the industrial Midwest, retail electricity prices will be roughly five percent higher in 2020 than business-as-usual, but this increase will diminish after that. Even the effect of these price increases can be reduced or eliminated through energy efficiency improvements and policy measures. Thus electricity is likely to remain significantly cheaper for U.S. electric arc furnace steel producers than for Chinese producers.