Opportunities in new climate economy

Updated: 2014-11-24 08:25

By Felipe Calderon and Andrew Steer(China Daily)

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China can become a global leader in developing new and renewable energy solutions, but to do so it will need to reform its own energy system and go to the next level in fostering safe, efficient, clean and low-carbon energy supply and consumption. China could play an important role in the future global low-carbon development, as long as it further limits greenhouse gas emissions and manages the risks of climate change.

How can China best seize these opportunities? China's newly announced plan to have emissions peak and to increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy to around 20 percent by 2030 is a step in the right direction. New policies on economy restructuring, energy conservation, energy efficiency improvement, renewable energy development and air pollution regulation would also be important. The government can do a lot by sending the right market signals to provide private companies the certainty to invest in low-carbon projects.

A tall order? Yes. But there are clear signs that meeting its new target to peak emissions by 2030 is very possible for China. Researchers at Tsinghua University and MIT found that by continuing current efforts to reduce carbon intensity, emissions will level off between 2030 and 2040.

Accelerating efforts could bring the level-off to 2025, with emissions dropping after that. Jiang Kejun, a leading researcher with China's economic planning agency, also found that an aggressive strategy, coupled with additional policies such as promotion of carbon capture and storage, could see a peak by 2025. China has also begun considering strong new steps on the low carbon path such as capping coal and putting a price on carbon. From the experiences in other countries, we know policies such as these can help drive innovation and cut the costs of transition, making it easier to meet - or exceed - the current targets.

This is an area where China and the US can work together to benefit both countries. While all major emitters are taking some climate action - the US and China included - none are yet doing enough. With China at an economic and environmental crossroad, ongoing cooperation on climate and clean energy with the US can yield significant social and economic rewards for both countries. The benefits of this course can and must go together to tackle climate change and create vibrant economies for the 21st century.

Felipe Calderon, former president of Mexico, is chair of Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and Andrew Steer is president and CEO of World Resources Institute.

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