China’s cities and villages are leading the world on climate changeFriday, Jul 30, 2010 in Office of Tony Blair, Breaking the Climate Deadlock
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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to come back to Guiyang again.
Let me first express my deep sympathy for and profound solidarity with, the hundreds of millions of people who have been affected by the recent floods in China. We have watched these scenes of misery and hardship with aching hearts. I hope that all affected recover fast and regain their livelihoods and sense of hope. I also have seen the reaction of your emergency services and authorities who have done a magnificent job, in such difficult circumstances. You can be very proud of them.
Such events remind us that we remain at the mercy of natural catastrophe.
Whilst such events may be unavoidable it is all the more important that we act to limit the damage of man made changes to our climate which we can avoid. It is our duty to future generations to try to do so.
Here in China, for example, Premier Wen Jiaobao stated in Copenhagen that China has 150 million people living below the poverty line and that in 2007, 251 million people were without access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water and other basic public infrastructure. At the same time, the National Assessment Report chronicles droughts in north-eastern China, flooding in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and coastal flooding in major urban centers, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.
We need action at the local, national and global levels.
The last century has seen unprecedented urbanization. 200 years ago only 2% of the world’s population lived in cities. The urban population now accounts for over half the total. And this trend is set to continue both in China and the rest of the world. By 2030, it is expected that close to three quarters will live in towns and cities, with many of them also becoming middle class consumers, demanding more food, more water and more energy services. Cities will therefore also have to be at the heart of finding ways to satisfy this demand, without carbon emissions growing out of control.
There is much that individual Chinese cities are already doing.
More than ten Chinese cities have officially announced that they are adopting action plans to become low carbon cities. Baoding for solar and wind power; Hangzou and its public cycling programme; Xiamen as a model of urban planning; Tianjin’s comprehensive climate action programme; Shenyang making one of its seven specific plans, one for a low carbon economy and also major contributions from Nanchang; Chengdu; Shenzhen and Wuxi. More than 70 cities participated in the China Forest City Forum. And of course, Guiyang is at the centre of things, a pilot city for eco-conservation and now with its own 10 year action plan.
Chinese cities are showing the way. And round the world from London to California, at a local and regional level, there is an immense amount of commitment and action.
Nationally, countries are setting targets of emissions reductions or reductions over Business As Usual.
China is leading the world out of the global economic crisis. Electricity generation provides just one example of China’s increasingly powerful role in the world economy, accounting for 70% of the total newly installed generating capacity. Much of this has come from coal, but the clean economy is playing an ever more important role; 80% of the world’s new hydropower and 35% of new wind capacity is to be found here.
The same is true in the car industry. China will soon be the world’s largest car market. With some of the most dynamic electrical vehicle manufacturers and government support to roll out pilot programs in 20 major cities, China can use this to drive adoption around the world.
Similarly with energy efficient lighting. LED bulbs can cut more than half the energy consumption needed to light our streets, homes and businesses, which at the moment accounts for nearly a fifth of all the electricity used around the world. Leadership by the Chinese, through clear polices and incentives, will mean that 10 cities will install 10,000 LED bulbs, dwarfing efforts elsewhere and creating demand that drives the creation of new markets, new businesses and new jobs.
We look forward to seeing even greater ambition in the 12th Five Year Plan, setting out China’s commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by 40-45% and further driving the growth of dynamic low carbon business sectors.
China is taking these measures of its own accord because it thinks them right and necessary for China.
But we also need global action.
By mid century we need to cut emissions by two thirds and the carbon intensity of the world economy by 90% to avoid dangerous global warming. Projections by the International Energy Agency give an idea of what this means in practical terms. Every year over the next four decades we would have to build 30 new nuclear power stations, 15,000 four megawatt wind turbines, more than 50 concentrating solar power plants, and 300 million square meters of photovoltaic panels, as well as major growth of hydropower and carbon capture and storage to cut the emissions from the coal –fired power stations that will inevitably be built. At the same we will need to see a more than doubling in energy efficiency – in industry, agriculture, buildings, appliances and .vehicles.
This will require huge investments - up to 1 trillion dollars worth a year and a direction for global action. This is why a new international agreement on climate change is essential. It is true Copenhagen did not achieve all everyone wanted. But it was never going to. It did, however, establish a clear set of principles that in time can give such a direction. This is provided we do not make the best the enemy of the good. There is no perfect deal waiting only for political will, in order to be done. But there is a deal that takes the maximum commitment nations, individually are making and translates those into practical areas of collaboration and action.
I would briefly list four principles that should govern our attempts to make a difference at a global level.
First, the emphasis must be on sustainable growth. We cannot expect counties like China and India, still with many millions living in poverty, to slow the pace of their development. They need to develop. We must search for ways of doing it sustainably. Likewise, to be frank, people of developed nations are not going to give up the benefits of higher living standards, travel and mobility that characterise today’s world.
Which brings me to my second point. The key is science and technology. It is the innovation that they bring – from electric vehicles to cleaner ways of power generation through to LED lighting – that will square the circle of the desire for increased consumption and the need for a green economy. The purpose of a global agreement and of national action plans is to create the incentives for the private sector to invent, commercialise and market the new ways of green living. Already in the last 10 years we have come a long way. The next 10 will likely revolutionise our knowledge of the technological potential. Government can help in basic research and seed funding; but the private sector will lead the way; as again many Chinese companies are showing.
Third, in line with this activity by the private sector, we should find ways of co-operation so as to maximize the spread and speed of technological advance. There are huge opportunities in everything from nuclear power, to carbon capture and storage; but we will hasten the pace of action if technology is shared and the possibilities of collaboration properly expanded. In this respect, Copenhagen did make significant progress.
Finally, and in the same spirit, there are many already established ways we can limit climate change. These are the low hanging fruit of the environmental action; like energy efficiency that can account for 25% of the change needed; and of course deforestation where again China’s 40 million hectares programme is a great example of what we can do.
So, in summary, “action” which is the theme of this year’s Guiyang Forum, is absolutely right. We don’t need more slogans or calls to do the impossible. We need to take what is possible, do it and build on it. In that way we multiply our own efforts and accelerate our progress to a low carbon future and green economy. That is the practical road to the future and we should take it.
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