Change: Development Opportunities amid Crisis

By staff reporter LIU YI

AFTER marathon negotiations in the final 48 hours, the 12-day Warsaw Climate Change Conference decided on the evening of November 23, 2013, to push forward the Durban Platform and institute the International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to compensate developing countries for greenhouse gases that the industrialization of developed nations has caused. Developed countries such as Japan and Australia’s announcement of reduced emission targets and capital contributions, however, somewhat diluted this principle as laid down at the conference. Rodrigo Bezerra, member of the Brazilian delegation and participant of several climate change conferences, was heard to comment, “Fortunately we didn’t have high expectations of this conference.”

Head of the Chinese delegation and Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Xie Zhenhua’s comment on the result was that “not everyone is satisfied but all can accept it.” Xie led his delegation in attending various forums and negotiations and in issuing the National Strategy of Climate Change Adaptation, signifying China’s elevation of climate change adaptation to a national strategy. The document stipulates incorporation of climate change adaptation into the comprehensive process of China’s economic and social development. This is in line with the reform plan drawn up at the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee last November, which raised the goal of building an ecological civilization.

Over the past eight years China has maintained high-octane growth with an average rate of seven to eight percent while at the same time reducing energy consumption by 26.4 percent per unit of GDP. This translates into a 980 million-ton saving of standard coal – equivalent to at least 2.35 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions and a 28 percent decrease in carbon intensity. Most significant is the common realization that environmental protection and economic development are not incompatible. Initiatives are hence taken to explore green development and grasp the commercial opportunities that arise in the process of tackling climate change.


Low-carbon Transition Sparks Urban Vitality

Shenzhen has  long been synonymous with manufacturing. The 13 million citizens inhabiting the city’s 2,000 square km area – a population density surpassing that of Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York – places enormous pressure on its environment. In recent years, however, while achieving an annual GDP growth of around 10 percent, Shenzhen’s water and electricity consumption have both fallen. The SEZ consequently topped the seventh Green Economy and Green GDP Index of 300 Provinces and Cities in China published last November.

Proactive industrial restructuring is a key reason for Shenzhen’s success in this respect. “Things were first of all made and then assembled in Shenzhen, but are now invented there,” Deputy Mayor Tang Jie said at the Warsaw conference.  Dependent on science and technology and innovation, Shenzhen focused its development strategy on new industries like biotech, the Internet, new energy, new materials, information technology, and cultural innovation. Information consumption in Shenzhen stands at around RMB 300 billion and e-commerce volume at around RMB 630 billion every year. Chinese Internet icon Alibaba has made the city its international business headquarters and its fellow Baidu has chosen Shenzhen as site of its southern China operations headquarters. Emerging e-commerce has thus replaced traditional high-energy-consumption markets, so making significant contributions to the green GDP.

As early as 2005, Shenzhen carried out a 10-year low-carbon development plan in efforts to escape the “pollute first, green later” mode. Half of the city’s area was reclassified as a protected region wherein development of any kind is prohibited. The government set out to develop metro and other public transportation that now accounts for about 70 percent of motor vehicle traffic, and has also promoted new energy vehicles. As of the end of last April, there were 5,244 new energy vehicles, including 2,200 electric automobiles, on Shenzhen’s roads, representing the largest scale in the world. The city plans to replace half of its present 14,000 standard buses and taxis with electric vehicles in five years.

“Electric cars use clean energy, and are also the most efficient mode of storing energy. They can hence shorten the peak-to-trough decline in power grids, and guarantee steady and economic operation,” Mr. Tang said.

Thus far, energy-saving, environmental protection, new energy and related industries have generated more than 30 million jobs in China, and achieved an annual output value of RMB 2.7 trillion.  “Chinese practice has proved that proactively adapting to climate change does not have severe impact on the economy. On the contrary, positive actions accelerate the quality and efficiency of economic growth as well as nurturing strategic emerging industries,” Xie Zhenhua said at a high-level forum in Warsaw on November 19.


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