China’s increasingly ambitious and committed approach to climate change and low-carbon development is explored in a new report released today ahead of the State Visit to the UK by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Government is reportedly hoping to agree major infrastructure deals during President Xi’s visit, including for a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. But the delegations will also be discussing how the UK and China can work together on other aspects of the latter’s low-carbon transition, such as wind, solar and tidal power.
Isabel Hilton, CEO and Editor of chinadialogue, said: “Many in the West simply don’t understand the extent to which the Chinese Government is betting the farm on a transition towards a low-carbon economy.
“China is not only committed to addressing serious environmental impacts including air pollution and climate change in its own country, it is also committed to becoming a global leader geopolitically.
“The speed and ambition of China’s move towards low-carbon development is impressive, and it creates major opportunities for countries like the UK. China is actively looking to us for expertise in many aspects of the low-carbon society, including energy saving, renewables, low-carbon urban planning and carbon trading.”
British exports of low-carbon goods and services to China already stand at an estimated £800 million per year. But its green development paradigm appears to offer UK plc significant opportunities for expansion.
In a speech to the OECD earlier this year, Premier Li Keqiang said: “China may buy core technologies, key parts and components and energy-saving and environmentally friendly equipment from developed countries.” And a recent article in the state-owned China Daily newspaper observed that China is looking for expertise to help it use energy more efficiently, improve its renewable energy industry, construct “green” buildings and develop carbon capture and storage.
Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said it was not clear that the UK government grasped the breadth of the opportunities on offer.
“Virtually all the talk is around the Hinkley and Bradwell nuclear deals; and although the delegations are talking about issues such as wind, solar and tidal power, the government isn’t choosing to highlight the fact,” he said.
“If UK firms don’t leap in here, someone else surely will, because all the signals show that China is open for business.
“And when you think that China has rapidly gone from being a country that was literally building a coal-fired power station per week to one that’s building an equivalent amount of clean energy capacity per week, that’s a lot of business.”
China’s domestic energy transformation is complemented by a marked change of stance on the UN climate negotiations, the importance of which was highlighted by Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s statutory advisor.
“The significance of China’s commitment to tackling climate change and low-carbon development, particularly ahead of this December’s critically important climate talks in Paris, cannot be overstated,” he said.
“One of the key differences between the Paris summit and the failed Copenhagen talks in 2009 is the serious engagement of major players like China and the US ahead of the talks.
“We also need to understand that suggestions that anything the UK does to tackle climate change is pointless because ‘the Chinese are building a new coal fired power station every week’ are lazy and outdated claims, and simply don’t reflect reality.”
Image from Greens of Gloucester: Lapel pin available here