Red Green

By Bryan • china, environment • 21 Oct 2004

China has not signed on to Kyoto, yet they still appear to be taking their own measures to reduce their emissions. However, this is largely the result of necessity and economic desire, rather than by moral obligation (which seem to be the main reason for reducing GHG’s in Canada).

“Li was quoted as saying China’s goal was to increase its renewable energy generating capacity to 60 gigawatts by 2010, or about 10 percent of total power capacity. That will rise to 121 gigawatts by 2020, or about 12 percent of the total, he said.”

Spend five minutes in a major Chinese city, and you will know what I mean. Many of the buildings in Nanjing are quite new, and can’t be more than 15 or 20 years old, yet they look like they are 60. The particlate load of the surrounding air is substantial and many, if not all of the buildings have some level of pollution staining.

I would speculate this drive towards the 10% threshold will largely be driven by the Three-Gorges dam project, which will be fully functional by 2009. The Three Gorges project would come up in my classes at UVic quite often, and everyone (including most professors) was adamantly oppossed to the dam. The arguments for the dam were there (pollution reduction, renewable etc.), but I don’t think anyone really took them seriously. Being here has really put it into a different perspective. China HAS to get off of their dependence on coal power. Coal power in itself is a disaster.

Alright, enough ramblings…got some lessons to prepare. I had my class vote on a topic last night….

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6 Responses

  1. Fraser

    My understanding of the reasons for Three Gorges opposition is that it will destroy a lot of ancient homes and artifacts when the reservoir fills, the relocation of thousands of families, as well as concerns about it becomming less effective due to sedementation. Also there are complaints about the impact on certain species like the river dolphin, and that the power will be used on the developed coast, rather than benefitting the poor interior. (Did I miss anything?) However, clearly China needs power for further development. My question for you is what you think the ideal solution is to China’s power problem? Coal has it’s problems, but seems to be enjoying a rebound as a “hot” power source thanks to low costs and recent pollution cutting measures.

  2. Bryan

    In the words of a Chinese collegue “it is a very difficult situation”

    I don’t doubt for a second the cost of large dam projects. In terms of sustainable development, mega-projects such as dams and masssive mines are very passe. The World Bank, for instance, no longer funds large dam programs. There are still projects in the works though, The Three Gorges being front and center, followed by a drive to dam the Mekong.

    Most of the power will go to the coastal regions, to stimulate growth, reduce pollution and prevent brownouts. It is doubtful that the poorer regions will receive much power, but then again, many areas are not fitted with the proper infrastructure to receive the power. Small scale, decentralized power schemes (small hydro, solar, wind) are the best options for poor, isolated regions.

    The heaviest pollution is concentrated over the largest cities, and that is where I think they need to wean themselves off coal power first. If not for economic reasons, then for health.

    They are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Improving the quality of life in China is a paramount goal of the government, but unchecked growth combined with previous Maoist legacies of failed mega projects has led to a environmental disaster. Car sales here are through the roof. Everyone wants to live like North Americans. The strain on natural resources is scary.

    I think real hope lies in the fact that despite their Environmental department being underfunded the Chinese government is well aware of their environmental problems. They know it is a liability to growth, especially in the tertiary sectors and something has to be done quickly.The Chinese are very good at ‘technology jumping’ and if they play their cards right, I could see them skipping over a lot of the problems North America encountered with the automobile (urban sprawl, smog etc.) by encouraging the sales of hybrids and hydrogen vehicles. Vehicle infrastructure (gas stations, highways) in China is developing, but is still not solidified, and it would be relativly easier for them to switch to different fuels than it would North America (since out infrastructure has been in place for decades).

    As for power, the infrastructure is firmly laid in old coal powered boilers with some newer ones online, the the possiblility of technology jumping is less. It is a tough question…I don’t really know. Mabye a network of solar panels of the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts. Keep centralized power for the cities. Decentralize rural power schemes by increasing small scale hydro and solar projects. Wind maybe, but I don’t know where. Inner Mongolia? Tibet? Xinjiang? Population in the west is few compared to the coast, so I would assume that land would be avaliable. The discouraging news is the Chinese still have faith in mega-projects. There are plans for further large dams on the Yangtze, above the Three Gorges and they are currently constructing a massive water transfer system which will transport millions of tons of water from the South (Yangtze basin) to the drier northern regions.

    Problems is, that while alternative energy costs are falling, it is still expensive relative to traditonal sources…and I would venture the observation that the Chinese like a bargain.

  3. Fraser

    Interesting response. I think you’re absolutely right that China is very good at leap-frogging advancements, and hopefully fuel cells/ hybrids etc. will take off as China begins to increase their standard of living. Right now they use about 1/25th gallons of oil/person as the US, so as they grow obviously something has to give. In a lot of ways China will provide a model for growth sure to happen in India and other developing countries.

    check out:
    http://www.ecoworld.com/Home/Articles2.cfm?TID=352

    I’m going to insert this little blurb from the latest Onion, only b/c I can’t stop laughing about it…it’s not at all related to anything:

    TIBETAN TEEN GETTING INTO WESTERN PHILOSOPHY

    LHASA, TIBET—Deng Hsu, 14, said Monday that he is “totally getting into Western philosophy.” “I’ve been reading a lot of Kant, Descartes, and Hegel, and it’s blowing my mind,” Hsu said. “It’s so exotic and exciting, not like all that Buddhist ‘being is desire and desire is suffering’ shit my parents have been cramming down my throat all my life. Most of the kids in my school have never even heard of Hume’s views on objectivity or Locke’s tabula rasa.” Hsu said he hopes to one day make an exodus to north London to visit the birthplace of John Stuart Mill.

  4. Bryan

    LOL…yeah I read that one too.

    “Most of the kids in my school have never even heard of Hume’s views on objectivity or Locke’s tabula rasa”

    Damn that’s hilarious!

    Unfortunately, I can’t access the ecoworld website. I figure I have full time access to about 80% of the web and about 90% from time to time. I have full access to CNN, but I can’t seem to access BBC World Service. Blogger (blogspot) is also restricted.

  5. Mike

    Well, hopefully you can get to globe and mail. This article is on the front page of their website right now.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20041023.wxchi-cult1023/BNStory/Front/

    It seems you aren’t the only one who feels that China is on the verge of becoming the World’s dominant power.

  6. Bryan

    Thanks Mike. That’s a good article. Yeah, if they stay the course this place is going to dominate in a decade.