China-Britain energy cooperation boosts low-carbon development

Updated: 2015-10-25 16:04


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LONDON - As China and Britain have been working on a major nuclear power project and renewable energy, the two countries are set to step up their efforts to shape a low-carbon future.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described as "historic" the agreement signed between Chinese and French companies to build a British nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in southwestern England, as the project will provide reliable, affordable energy to nearly 6 million homes.

Aside from the nuclear power plant, Chinese companies are also investing in Britain's renewable energy projects, such as solar energy, offshore wind and biomass. SinoFortone Group, a Chinese private development company, recently announced that it has decided to invest in a biomass power station project in Britain.

Chinese companies are also working closely with their British partners to push forward low-emission transport projects in Britain, including electric buses and environmentally friendly taxis.

These projects will not only help Britain build a greener economy, but also boost the exchanges of low-carbon expertise and technologies between the two countries.

Low-carbon transition is seen as one of the top priorities by China and Britain, as both countries are working hard to meet the challenges of climate change. In a joint declaration issued by the two countries, China and Britain pledged to work together in various fields, notably in the field of tackling climate change.

"Given China's huge commercial interest in growing a global low-carbon sector and its growing awareness that fossil fuel-based investments are at risk in a climate-constrained world, it would arguably make sense for Chinese investors to insist that progressively greater proportions of their UK investments go into low-carbon areas," Richard Black told Xinhua, who is the director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-governmental organization.

At an unprecedented and unanticipated pace, China is emerging as the "dominant player" in the world's low-carbon economy, and there are many potential opportunities for countries whose political and business leaders are aligned and alert, according to a report published by the ECIU.

As low-carbon development is generally technology- and capital-intensive, China still needs foreign technology and investment, the report said.

China has announced its plan to launch a national emissions trading system (ETS) covering power generation, steel, cement and other high-emitting sectors in 2017. China has ETS pilot programs in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen cities, and Guangdong and Hubei provinces.

China's ETS pilot programs have received technical assistance from several European countries, including Britain, whose experience in national and European carbon trading schemes has immense value both for Chinese policymakers and the companies involved, according to the report.

"It's clear that the Chinese market is open for those kinds of skills and expertise," Black said.

"Another area is low-carbon services. This includes things like designing a carbon trading system, establishing effective regulations, and dealing with the specific problems of financing low-carbon energy." he added.

Going for green

With the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, the impact of climate change is once again the focal point of discussions among world leaders and experts.

According to a research paper published online in the journal Nature Climate Change, drylands could cover more than half of the global land surface by 2100 if global green house gas emissions continue to rise, which would have a disproportionate effect on developing countries, and could exacerbate poverty levels and land degradation.

Over the last few years, China has adopted an increasingly ambitious and committed approach to climate change and low-carbon development, according to the report published by ECIU.

"It plays a positive leadership role within the United Nations climate negotiations, has become the world's biggest investor in renewable energy, and has rapidly restrained and apparently reversed its growth in coal consumption." it said.

"China has shown great leadership with its new pledge of financial support for the poorer countries," chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Nicholas Stern told Xinhua in an interview earlier this month.

Stern said it is important that China also promotes investments by developing and emerging market economies in low-carbon infrastructure, including through national and multilateral development banks.

He noted that the development of new technologies will be very important in combat against climate change.

China pledged an "Intended Nationally Determined Contribution" (INDC) to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 to 65 percent from the 2005 level by 2030, according to a document submitted to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The world's second-largest economy intends to achieve its peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and will do its best to peak early, according to the INDC.

"Pushed by climate change concerns and pulled by the lure of a rapidly growing global market, China is set to dominate both the politics and the business of the world's low-carbon transition," Black said.

"It's clear there are opportunities on offer to British companies if they and the (British) government are inclined to grasp them," he added.