Li Xing

Getting down to action on climate change

By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-23 08:04
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Exceptionally high temperatures from New York to Paris, Berlin, and Moscow to Beijing and Shanghai is making climate change a hot topic these days at forums, workshops and conferences.

At the Second International Youth Summit on Energy and Climate Change in Shanghai last week, I was asked whether there are too many events focusing on climate change.

The same question was asked during the United Nations Climate Talks last December. Would the climate really benefit, some people asked, from bringing 50,000 delegates, journalists, activists and observers to Copenhagen, releasing an estimated 46,200 tons of CO2 in the process.

Notably absent from these forums are those who are actually involved in projects providing alternative energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Nor were they heard from last week, when the media trumpeted China's emergence as the largest energy consumer in the world.

These people are just too busy to care about what the media have to say about their work.

On Tuesday, I visited the headquarters of the North China Power Engineering Co., Ltd., where Tian Jingkui, senior engineer and deputy general manager of New Energy Sources Department, told me that he and his colleagues are preparing to bid for nine new national solar PV power projects in Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Qinghai next month.

In the past, it took Tian and his colleagues two to three months to prepare for a bid to design a wind power farm or a solar power plant. "This time, we are trying to bid on nine projects within a month," Tian told me.

As I walked from office to office, I saw engineers working on blueprints and meteorologists poring over weather data. Many of them were deeply suntanned, as most of their work is done outdoors.

Since the department was established in 1996, Tian and his colleagues have left their footprints on mountains, prairies and tidal flats across the country. They helped build China's first wind farm in Beijing. In 2002, they put out the first comprehensive report on wind resources, identifying possible locations for wind farms in North China.

By the end of last year, the team had some 60 engineers, meteorologists and other experts, and had worked on some 70 wind power farms in Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia as well as 10 provinces spanning the length and breadth of China.

Tian and his colleagues not only lead the country in designing and building wind farms; they have also ventured into solar energy and biofuels. They are currently building a plant in Heilongjiang that will use grain stalk as fuel. They have also involved in the feasibility studies and design of some 24 solar PV power projects, including one in South Africa.

Incidentally, I've noticed that many of the people who are leading the country's renewable energy projects started out in fossil fuels. They seem to have no qualms about switching over to clean energy.

Zhu Kaiqing, general manager of the Shanghai Dong Hai Wind Power Co., Ltd, took charge of the building and managing of China's first offshore wind farm in Shanghai. He started his work in the early 1970s, when the nation was celebrating its first 125,000 kw power generator. Today, China is dismantling these small generators and replacing them with larger, cleaner, and more powerful units.

Zhu and Tian both acknowledge that they have encountered problems in their work. Such problems are to be expected; what is remarkable is their dedication to solving the problems, improving the efficiency, and cutting the cost of newer projects.

Their "can-do" spirit does a lot more for the environment, and for all of us, than critics who carp about the number of climate change forums. As a result of the hard work of Zhu and Tian and their colleagues, China now leads the world in the use of wind power, according to the International Energy Agency.

We'll need more of this 'can-do' spirit if China is to achieve its goal of cutting carbon intensity per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.

This work is vital to our future, and there is no time to waste. As Zhu Kaiqing told me, "I must leave a cleaner world to my children and grandchildren."