Coinciding with the United Nation's Jan 31 deadline when all countries are required to submit their binding or voluntary reduction targets of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, China took a step to officially set up the National Energy Commission (NEC) on Wednesday.
This is a plan that China's highest parliamentary body - the National People's Congress - approved two years ago. Some observers have said the long-awaited formation the new agency, which Premier Wen Jiabao will lead, is the first step in the Chinese government's ramped-up efforts to put its aim of a 40-45 percent carbon intensity reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels into action.
Along with the official submission of its reduction aims to the UN this week, the government is expected to announce more actions to deliver the 10-year energy intensity goal at the coming annual "two sessions" of the parliamentary body and the highest political advisory body in March.
China's active role in improving energy governance to echo global efforts to fight climate change should be applauded. Truly, as the deadline draws to a close, the establishment of the commission indicates that China is a responsible global stakeholder that suffers from not only global warming, but also the painful shortage of fossil fuels.
Many signs have indicated that this country will not only participate in the global climate-energy governance, but also in scientific debates, which can help find proper ways to manage the earth. Its climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua said this week that he would be open to the cause of climate change.
But nearly 10 percent of the scientists in the world don't subscribe to the mainstream findings that global warming is man-made.
Currently, climate change, energy security, energy conservation, scientific research, and emission control have been separately managed. It is not easy for an individual ministry to coordinate and disseminate the country's "voices" to the rest of the world.
With this in mind, Premier Wen's new agency might have to strengthen its task force to take charge of the energy-climate issue. And a powerful subcommission on energy and the climate should be set up as soon as possible. The government's climate negotiation team and the Department of Combating Climate Change under the National Development and Reform Commission should be integrated into the subcommission.
If China wants to play an even more active role in global climate politics, a reshuffle of its governance is urgently needed. And globally, especially in industrialized countries, such governance structure is prevailing.
The commission, in which Vice-Premier Li Keqiang serves as deputy and more than 20 ministers as commission members, has many responsibilities on its shoulders, including drafting a national energy development plan, reviewing energy security and major energy issues and coordinating domestic energy development and international cooperation.
For example, the country has decided to invest heavily in nuclear power; the commission should mobilize teams of the most capable scientists to do feasibility studies in every single site while consulting with local citizens.
The commission needs to promote a low-carbon awareness that is quickly growing among ordinary Chinese, enterprises and non-governmental organizations following last-year's bumpy road toward Copenhagen. It must provide further incentives and policy frameworks to turn the early enthusiasm into actions to reduce the use of fossil energy.
The agency is also expected to play a supervisory role for the country's colossal energy giants to fulfill their responsibilities in guaranteeing the country's energy security, instead of solely making hefty monopolistic profit.
This is an incredibly huge country and energy demand is increasing at a fast pace. So it's understandable if the commission finds it difficult to begin its mission. Visits to all the headquarters of the country's oil, electricity and nuclear State-owned enterprises may provide invaluable information for drafting policy.
The new powerful coordination agency may find that its priority this year is not only to draw up a blueprint for China's sustained energy supply as stated in the announcement.
It also has to investigate whether these buildings are properly built and to what extent corruption lies behind them.
This is a challenge for the new agency. However, only clean, devoted and responsible energy enterprises and businesses leaders can fulfill the demanding role of energy security entrusted by the populous country.
(China Daily 01/29/2010 page9)