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Energy, climate change and low carbon development in China

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F. Urban (ed)
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This policy briefing discusses the dilemma emerging economies like China, India and South Africa are facing in increasing their levels of development. Developing countries have, in the past, not contributed significantly to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions like developed countries. China's development of the past three decades has been unprecedented. Some accuse China of being the highest emitter of carbon dioxide. The Chinese viewpoint is that it is the largest contributor to 'new' emissions from their high use of coal fueled energy. To tackle the impact of climate change, China has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and was one of the first developing countries to issue a National Climate Change Programme.

The briefing gives the following as lessons which can be learned from China:
i) Technological leapfrogging, through bypassing polluting technologies, does reduce emissions.
ii) The successful introduction of electrification schemes, providing electricity to 99% of the population.
iii) Passing a Renewable Energy Law with high targets for renewable energy which are comparable to those of the European Union.
iv) Giving incentives for energy saving, reducing dependence on coal and aiming at a low carbon economy.

The briefing says the Chinese development model is not easy to learn from but it is worth investigating whether aspects of it could be used by other developing countries. It gives the following as the lessons China can learn from other countries:
i) it should avoid fossil-fueled development which was followed by the developed countries.
ii) it needs to access low-carbon technologies and learn how to build them in China.
iii) it should learn from the low-carbon implementation record of the Scandinavians and their reliance on hydro-power; and the German, US, Spanish, Danish and Indian push for wind energy.

The briefing highlights the following policy implications:
i) climate change policies and the introduction of sustainable low-carbon development should be promoted further.
ii) policy makers should learn from experiences of other developing countries like Brazil and India.
iii) policy makers should continue to promote enabling environments to facilitate technology transfer and cooperation.
iv) access to low-carbon technologies from developed countries has to be eased.
v) Developed countries should acknowledge their responsibility for most of the climate change.
vi) other countries should learn from the steps China has taken so far.

The briefing concludes that the development community must understand the rise of China and its likely role in climate change and low-carbon development.