Australia, China to Cooperate in Developing Low Carbon Cities

CANBERRA, Australia, April 1, 2011 (ENS) – Australia and China have agreed to intensify their collaboration on creating low carbon cities to combat global climate change. Australia is the world’s highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, while China is the world’s overall largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The agreement was reached this week in Canberra during the third Australia-China Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Change between Greg Combet, Australia’s minister for climate change and energy efficiency, and Xie Zhenhua, China’s National Development and Reform Commission vice chairman, a former environment minister.

The city of Shenzhen, China is one of the eight cities developing low carbon plans. (Photo by Bournes)

“The central theme of our discussions was how we can drive the development of our economies as the world moves to a low-carbon future,” said Minister Combet.

“I was particularly interested to hear from Vice Chairman Xie about the priority China is giving to low carbon energy, energy efficiency and clean technology under the latest Five-Year Plan,” he said.

Under a pilot program that began last summer, five Chinese provinces and eight cities are developing low carbon plans, including the use of market mechanisms to achieve emissions reductions.

“To assist this, we agreed today to intensify cooperation in developing low carbon cities, and to share experience on market mechanisms, including emissions trading and a carbon price,” Combet said.

“Both countries also agreed to continue co-operation on carbon pollution measurement and reporting, as well as strengthen energy efficiency collaboration.

“We also exchanged views on the outlook for UN climate change negotiations. China, as the world’s largest emitter, is a key player in these negotiations,” Combet said.

“I highlighted Australia’s focus this year is on implementing the agreements reached at Cancun last December,” Combet said.

Xie Zhenhua at the climate talks in Cancun, December 2010 (Photo courtesy ENB)
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet (Photo courtesy Parliament of Australia)

Xie said the Cancun Agreement moved the international negotiation process “a big step forward.”

In this year’s climate talks in South Africa, Xie said China will “stick to the principle of no gap between the first and second phases of Kyoto Protocol,” which expires at the end of 2012.

“We should set up the mechanisms for adaptation, finance and technology,” he said.

In a speech at Australian National University in Canberra on Wednesday, Combet and Xie addressed the inaugural meeting of the Australia-China Climate Change Forum, which is building stronger research and policy links between China and Australia on climate change.

“As the developed world’s highest per capita emitter, it is in Australia’s national interest to reduce our carbon pollution, and access the opportunities that come from moving to a clean energy future, said Combet. “That’s why the Gillard government has made clear our commitment to introduce a carbon price into the Australian economy from 1 July 2012.”

Under the proposed scheme, the companies that are Australia’s largest carbon polluters, numbering fewer than 1,000, will be required, for the first time, to pay for their pollution.

Hallett Wind Farm in South Australia, completed 2008 (Photo courtesy AGL Energy)

“Every cent” of the revenue raised from the large polluters will be used to assist families with household bills, support jobs in the most affected industries and invest in programs to tackle climate change, Combet promised.

“The effect of the carbon price will be to cut pollution, drive investment in low emissions technologies and to transform our economy,” said Combet. “We will see new cleaner energy sources and projects initiated in areas such as natural gas and renewables. We will also see new clean energy jobs and technologies develop.”

However, the price on carbon is a hot button political issue. The opposition Liberal Party calls it “an ill-considered carbon tax” and contends the Labor Government’s carbon tax “will slug household and business energy users at a time when they can least afford it,” because of state government failures to invest in electricity infrastructure and the Gillard government’s failure to address energy security.

The Australian Greens today joined the Gillard government in announcing an agreed pathway towards a carbon price that should commence on July 1, 2012, beginning the transformation of the coal-dependent Australian economy to clean energy.

Xie told the Forum that the National People’s Congress has just adopted the outline for the 12th Five-Year Plan. During this period, he said, China will “promote energy saving and improve our energy efficiency to develop non-fossil energies and increase the forest carbon sink.”

In February 2010, Beijing-based Sinovel Wind erected a 34th wind turbine close to Shanghai’s Donghai Bridge. China’s first offshore wind farm is capable of powering 200,000 households. (Photo by ANR2008)

“The green and low carbon development has become a very important policy orientation of China’s future development,” he said.

“The proportion of non-fossil energy in the primary energy consumption will be increased to 11.4 percent,” during the next five years, Xie said.

“We set the per unit GDP energy consumption reduction and the CO2 emission reduction by 16 percent and 17 percent respectively, compared to the year 2010, and a reduction of 33 percent and 34 percent respectively, compared to the year 2005,” Xie stated, amidst an avalanche of numbers outlining China’s recent efforts to control its greenhouse gas emissions.

“In order to achieve green and low carbon development now we have already carried out low carbon pilot projects in five provinces and eight municipalities,” he said. “At the same time we also carried out carbon exchange pilot projects in Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing.”

The National Development and Reform Commission launched a national low-carbon province and low-carbon city experimental project in Beijing in August 2010. The project will be implemented in five provinces: Guangdong, Liaoning, Hubei, Shaanxi and Yunnan; and in eight cities: Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Guiyang and Baoding.

“In general,” said Xie, “although China is now in the stage of a fast industrialization and urbanization, we will continue to make our contributions to the global effort of tackling climate change with our actions.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.