Low-carbon economy is the economy based on low energy consumption and low pollution. Commonly speaking, it is to reduce carbon dioxide emission, calling upon people to try to reduce “carbon” emission in life and production. According to Mr. Zhu Dajian, low-carbon economy is energy decarbonization or economy with carbon elimination, including relative low-carbonization and absolute low-carbonization. The former refers to the fact that the growth rate of high-carbon energy is lower than the economic growth rate, while the latter means that the growth rate of high-carbon energy is zero or negative. At present, the situation of world economic development is of relative low-carbonization. While from 2001 to 2007, China has been at the stage of rapid growth of high-carbon energy.
Global climate change is related to rising temperature and industrial economic growth mode. According to Mr. Zhu Dajian, the basic feature of traditional industrial economy is large consumption of high-carbon energy (fossil fuel) at the input terminal and large emission of carbon dioxide at the output terminal. How to develop economy under the circumstances of high-carbon energy and decrease of carbon dioxide? Mr. Zhu Dajian believes that the pro-active way to reduce emission at the output terminal is to reduce the high-carbon energy consumption at the input terminal. Although it is important to conduct the end handling, such as absorption, after carbon emission, it has to be considered the passive option with emission coming first and handling afterwards.
Inherent Motive Force and External Pressure
What is low-carbon economy? Some believe that the development of low-carbon economy should not be our current task. In response to this point, Mr. Zhu Dajian believes that it is because they are not clear about the internal and external conditions of current and future development in China. He said as far as the internal supply was concerned, the economy of China was basically driven by high-carbon energy. Therefore, with the sustained economic growth, the carbon dioxide emission would grow in a sustained manner. International Energy Agency has already predicted that the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission by China’s economic growth would exceed the United States in 2010. So we have the motive force for internal improvement. As far as the external pressure is concerned, as the developing country, China did not had any compulsory emission reduction task in the past 10 years, but it would be faced with the possibility of compulsory emission reduction in the future. Although we may circumvent the environmental requirement that total national emission is among the top in the world with the development requirement that our per capita carbon dioxide emission is not up to the world average, such a rationale would not be sustained after 2020.
According to Mr. Wan Gang, minister of Research, Science and Technology, the transformation of economic growth mode, promotion of economic restructuring, conservation of resources and energy are not only the demand of China to achieve its own scientific development and sustainable development, but also the contribution made by China to global efforts to fight climate change.
How to Develop Low-carbon Economy in China?
In his analysis, Mr. Zhu Dajian believes that the development of low-carbon economy is basically through two channels from the aspect of energy source: firstly, it replaces from the source, raises the efficiency, such as the widespread application of new energy, e.g. solar energy, the development of alternative energy; secondly, the carbon sink, such as the protection of virgin forest, development of man-made forest. He believes that as the developing country, although China relies on the forestation of its territory to absorb the carbon dioxide emission caused by high-carbon energy consumption, it should still focus on the realization of low carbon-oriented, new type of industrialization (production mode), new type of modernization (consumption mode) and new type of urbanization that has the integration function. New type of industrialization needs to remarkably develop low-carbon, cycling material economy to reduce carbon emission; new type of modernization needs to develop public and service-oriented consumption to reduce carbon emission, for instance, China needs to develop scaled public transport network more actively, instead of private cars; new type of urbanization needs to boost the development of compact urban space and regional space to reduce carbon emission.
From the aspect of technology with high energy efficiency, the comprehensive energy efficiency of developed countries, i.e. the conversion efficiency of primary energy source in economy is up to 45%, while China may only register 35%. Generally speaking, it is lagged behind. Low-carbon technology is concerned with the new technologies to effectively control greenhouse gas emission, which are developed in sectors such as, power, transportation, construction, metallurgy, chemical sector, petrol chemical sector; the clean and highly efficient utilization of renewable energy, new energy, coal; exploration and development of oil and gas resources and coal bed gas; capture and storage of carbon dioxide. These are all problems that must be faced and addressed in developing the low-carbon economy by China.
“Transforming the traditional concept and promoting the low-carbon economy” is the theme for this year’s World Environmental Day identified by UNEP. Then what is low-carbon economy? Why such economic mode should be promoted? What will it bring to people? Recently the journalist visited and interviewed the experts in the city.
“Low carbon” is “Green”
“Literally speaking, low carbon is to reduce carbon dioxide emission, calling upon people to try to reduce “carbon” emission in life and production. It is to substantiate the energy waste reduction and exhaust gas emission reduction of energy conservation and emission reduction.” The atmospheric division director Mr. Wang Jianli of municipal environmental protection bureau said that Low-carbon economy was the green economy based on low energy consumption and low pollution, conducting minimum greenhouse gas emission in the process of development, meanwhile realizing maximum social benefit output. The core is to promote the transformation of the entire society and economy to the development mode with high energy efficiency, low energy consumption and low carbon emission through the development and innovation of institutional framework and policy measures on the basis of market mechanism.
Compared with the traditional economic mode of high energy consumption and high pollution in the past, low-carbon economy covers the various aspects of production and life. As far as low-carbon technology itself is concerned, it is concerned with power, transportation, construction, chemical and petrochemical sectors as well as the clean and efficient utilization of renewable energy, new energy and coal. What is driven by such low-carbon technology is the development of “low-carbon economy”.
As for the understanding about low-carbon economy, Mr. Wang Jianli thought that the basic guarantee for low-carbon economy was the energy structural adjustment, the widespread application of new energy such as solar energy, the realization of low-carbon energy in addition to low-carbon technology; the key to low-carbon economy was clean production; the effective means to low-carbon economy was the cycled utilization of production materials; the fundamental direction of low-carbon economy was sustainable development.
According to Mr. Wang Jianli, the benefits brought by “low-carbon economy” are as follows: first and foremost, it means that people have declining demand for fossil fuel; secondly, low-carbon emission may address the most significant environmental issue-climate change. He thought that low-carbon economy, as a new economic mode, was another major progress by human society after agricultural civilization and industrial civilization to some extent.
Effectively Mitigating “Greenhouse Effects”
As for low-carbon economy, we would rather say that it is the new solution proposed by people under increasingly severe environment than that it is the product of technological development at certain stage. “The global climate change is the most direct reason to promote low-carbon economy to the forefront.” Mr. Wang Jianli said.
It is said that on the basis of a number of practices and experiments, the scientists have already confirmed that the significant carbon dioxide emission is the leading cause to global warming. The main source of carbon dioxide is the massive use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Along with global warming, the occurring frequency of extreme climate and environmental incident such as fog, haze, acid rain has been gradually increasing. The aridity and declining trend of bio-diversity are increasingly intensified.
The research findings have indicated that only through controlling the increase margin of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration within 2 times of pre-industrial level by 2050, would the extreme climate change consequences be avoided. How to control carbon dioxide emission? According to Mr. Wang Jianli, the effective means to carbon dioxide emission reduction and mitigation of “greenhouse effects” is to replace traditional high-carbon energy through the development of low-carbon energy, thus realizing the transformation from high-carbon economy to low-carbon economy.
He said that based on the domestic and foreign environmental situation analysis, no matter the need for China itself to achieve sustainable development, or its contribution to the global efforts to deal with climate change, the transformation of economic growth mode and development of “low-carbon economy” that is based on low energy consumption and low pollution would be the general trend. As for our Shijiazhuang city, it is in need of developing the new economic mode to meet economic development demands, and minimize the environmental impacts.
How to march towards “low-carbon city”?
At the beginning of this year, the global protection organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) officially launched the “China low-carbon city development program” in Beijing. Shanghai and Baoding were selected as the first pilot cities and will seek for resolutions of “low-carbon city” with regards to energy efficiency in buildings, renewable energy sources as well as manufacture and application of energy-saving products, and feasible mode will be summarized. Therefore, “low-carbon city” begins to gain people’s attention.
According to the person in charge of the Department of Environmental Protection of our city, “low-carbon city” means that a city manages to maintain energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission at a comparatively low level while keeping the economy developing rapidly. Our city is a typical city that utilizes coal-based energy; our energy structure is dominated by coal, accounting for 70% of total energy. Consequently, “soot” pollution becomes one of the major pollutions in the urban area. Therefore, we will give priority to promotion of energy saving, development of new energy and cultivation of green energy.
Our city has long advocated energy saving and emission control. This year witnessed the commencement of the Conference on Environmental Protection and Emission Control of Shijiazhuang City. Twelve action plans and assessment measures for emission control have been established, covering the main points of air and water pollution control. The conference also stated clearly that if energy saving and emission control objective fails to be achieved within 3 years, then major officers of key counties (cities) should resign from office, corporate representatives from state-owned enterprises should be dismissed and private enterprises should stop production and conduct rectification. “This is the only way leading to sustainable development of our society and economy”.
According to some experts, the key to ecological civilization lies in energy saving and emission control. Energy saving should be given priority. We need to transform the mode of economic development, promote structural adjustment of economy and save resources and energy. In addition, we must establish an energy-saving consumption mode, build up energy-saving industrial structure and growth pattern, eliminate highly energy-consuming industry, develop recycling economy and comprehensive utilization, as well as reduce the industrial energy-consuming level.
Wang Jianli, chief of the Atmosphere Section of the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, said that “low-carbon” is close to every one of us. It is a healthy and sustainable life style. All of us can contribute to energy saving and emission control in daily life so as to speed up the progress to “low-carbon city”. We need to develop low-carbon economy, pay close attention to improve low-carbon technology and innovation ability of product development, actively utilizes political measures to provide extensive support for development of low-carbon economy. In detail, we need to raise public awareness and public participation enthusiasm. With joint efforts, we can create a better space to live in and develop.