Spotlight on….China

Today I attended the Climate Leaders Summit, an event organized by the Climate Group, a group that touts itself as an international non-profit organization but feels more like an industry association.  Today’s event was devoted to China’s low-carbon initiatives, since, according to Mark Kenber of the Climate Group, China’s next five-year plan will include an environmental sector with a targeted focus on low-carbon initiatives.

The Summit began with the “Chinese Cities in Action” panel, which included representatives from Guangzhou, Song Xian, Copenhagen, Melbourne, and Albuquerque (in New Mexico, USA).  One of the Chinese panelists concluded the panel with a (somewhat greenwashing) pitch on the investment potential of China’s drive towards a low-carbon economy.

After a brief (but delicious) lunch we heard a panel composed of Chinese real estate developers and international business representatives.  The representative from the China Clean Development Mechanism Fund revealed that a portion of any money that the Fund receives would be allocated to the Central Government, who would then use the money to support national low-carbon development projects, such as research initiatives and public awareness campaigns.  This is different from other jurisdictions where the full amount is allocated to recipient private enterprises.

The developers then discussed sustainability initiatives within their businesses.  One company executive found that while green building options carry a higher price, some consumers are willing to pay for this premium, and any leftover expenses can be met through government subsidies.  Another company is seeking to develop a zero-consumption building that attempts to utilize only renewable energy.

Finally, all the business representatives expressed skepticism on the LEED standard, suggesting that it is not a one-size-fit-all standard and that it may not be as comprehensive as some of the other environmental building standards currently used around the world.    One presenter also mentioned that China has its own sustainability standard, known as the “Three Star System”.

All in all it was a very interesting experience, and I certainly learned a lot about China’s initiatives in pushing for a low-carbon economy.  Now we wait to see if there is similar political will to push for a fair, ambitious, and legally-binding treaty at COP-16.


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