Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, talks about the role the meteorological department will play during the country's process of readjusting the economic growth pattern.

Q: The extreme climate events are linked with global warming and some other environment problems. That's why China is pushing the idea of the low-carbon city. Premier Wen Jiabao also said in his government work report that the county will establish a monitoring system for greenhouse gas emissions and energy saving. How would you define the term "low carbon city"?

A: You may have already known that more than 70 percent of China's carbon dioxide emission comes from its cities. Hence, the cities possess the biggest potential in terms of cutting emissions and saving energy. City areas are also the focal points for the country's energy-saving and emission-reduction process.

China's urban energy consumption comes from three major sources: the first source is construction emissions, the second source is transportation, and the third is urban lighting. How we can build a low carbon city is determined by each city's particular type of emissions. If we could reduce 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas, the total emission volume would drop as well. In the meantime, energy saving is a component of tackling the climate change. So, what is the foundation for energy saving? The basic question is how you will evaluate the emissions of carbon dioxide. We have to set up a detailed monitoring and evaluation system for every area and every industry. For this reason, the country pledged to establish a greenhouse gas monitoring system. The system will conduct real-time monitoring of the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. Especially for those enterprises with high energy consumption and pollution, the system will provide information on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In this way, the energy-saving and emission reduction tasks could be implemented on the frontline of production. And the scientific evaluations could safeguard the accomplishment of per unit GDP carbon dioxide emission target, as well as the energy-saving target, set by the central government. This system will force companies to increase their energy efficiency by applying new technologies with low energy consumption and emissions. It will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will guarantee that the target for addressing climate change is accomplished successfully. This is the most fundamental work, as well as the evaluation system.

Q: The government specifically raised the idea of building a carbon-trading market in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). As we know, it's usually big companies with high-energy consumption that vow to cut carbon emissions. And most of the companies are State-owned enterprises under the State-owned Assets Administration and Supervision Committee (SASAC). And the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is taking the lead in China's energy-saving and emission-reduction projects. How should the SASAC and NDRC map out their duties and responsibilities?

A: I am not an official of either of these two organizations. But there is one thing that I want to point out. Carbon trading is a complicated business. So we have to thoughtfully explore the possibilities of a carbon-trading market. Moreover, carbon trade is more a method than a goal. We want to spur the companies' willingness to save energy and reduce emissions through carbon trading. You have to pay a price if you would like to continue your high-energy-consumption and high-pollution production modes. We should encourage the introduction of energy-saving and environmental friendly technology onto the production line. So the real meaning of carbon trading is that it could make the companies consciously introduce environmental friendly production methods. Therefore, it is a tool, not a goal. And the carbon trade is an extraordinarily complicated matter. How much would it charge for each ton of carbon dioxide? European countries are also mulling the establishment of the carbon dioxide markets, and they set different prices in different markets. The prices would vary from 10 to more than 50 euros. But the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change co-established a Clean Development Mechanism program, aiming to move some high-pollution and high-energy consumption facilities in developed countries to developing countries. The companies could provide some low-emission technologies to their counterparts in developing countries, so that these companies could get a higher emission ceiling. This program has been carried out in China for almost ten years, and has achieved good results. By introducing the developed countries' investment and technologies, we've improved of the country's capacity for energy saving. Of course, we have to transfer our carbon emissions quota to them. It's a mutually beneficial deal. We have to focus on the exchange of domestic companies' production methods. I think this idea is beneficial. However, it's still being explored. As for what kind of duties the NDRC or the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology should carry out, I don't think it's important. The most important thing is that the companies possess the awareness and the motivation to participate in the project. The government must make the enterprises change the develop mode both on legislation and administrative levels. The companies must implement more energy-saving and environmental friendly technologies to reduce emissions and protect the environment.

Q: You mentioned the change in economic development mode just now. My question is, how would the meteorological department provide better service for this change and for economic structure reform?

A: First, the change of economic development mode may boost new economic sectors. We have to protect these sectors. For instance, the country wants to develop nuclear power. The safety questions, atmospheric environment evaluation questions and, possibly, emergency response questions must be taken into consideration. China's meteorological department is one of the eight nuclear emergency evaluation and assessment centers in the world. It was co-established by the World Meteorological Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The center conducts assessments of possible incidents that could occur at nuclear plants, including the possible effects on the surrounding area. We have prepared a series of emergency measures for this kind of situation. We will issue scientific valuations for the site selections of wind and solar power plants, in order to use resources efficiently. For example, some site has a weaker wind velocity, if the plant were set on this site, the economic value would be reduced. So, we have to evaluate at what level the wind could reach on this particular site, and what kind of turbine we should choose.

Meanwhile, in terms of changing the economic growth method, projects such as the location selection for key projects and the risk assessment of disaster prevention capability will need climate evaluations provided by us. For example, the country is currently developing clean energy industries, high speed railways and logistics distribution centers, all these projects will need meteorological disaster evolutions and services. The adjustment of the agricultural structure will also require meteorological information, such as industrial arrangement, the selection of new products and the establishment and protection of an ecological environment and so on.

The country is readjusting the economic growth pattern, and the meteorological department is finding ways to fit that new pattern and provide services as well. It is a challenge, and a major development area for the meteorological department in the future. We will provide more meteorological public-service products.

Q: So it's an interaction movement with different departments?

A: Exactly. We are cooperating with lots of different departments. For instance, when South China was hit by a sleet hazard again in the spring, we provided real-time information to the NDRC. The NDRC directed the coal transportation and the postal services and telecommunications in those areas. The transportation has to be adjusted according to the traffic flowing data. For example, we issued a hazard alert to areas that may experience a worsening weather situation, so the government could allocate supplies ahead of time for the disaster. So, the service is comprehensive, and of course our weather service is demand-oriented.

Q: Thanks very much for doing this interview with us. Thank you!

A: Thank you.

Quotable Quotes
Ronald Denom
Low-carbon city is hundreds, it's thousands of little actions that added up all together end up producing carbon.

Jorge Mora
But what is the main challenge? It's not about what your government wants. It's not about if it's possible or not. It is about what you Chinese citizens really want.

Deborah A. McCarthy
Our challenge is to come up with a global norm. That will enable us to all be on the same line or sheet of music.

Chen Guangbiao
Now we have forest police, why shouldn't we establish an environment police?

Zheng Guoguang
The country wants to develop nuclear power. The safety questions, atmospheric environment evaluation questions and, possibly, emergency response questions must be taken into consideration.

Liu Zhengdong
Aluminum is, in the short term, an industry of high-energy consumption. But in the long term, it is a high energy-carrying industry.

Liu Tongbo
I think Beijing should also develop more bicycle lines. This is a good way to improve the traffic and the air quality.

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