Chen Weihua

China will continue to go green

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-23 08:06
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Just a week before the global climate summit begins in Cancun, Mexico, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and chief climate envoy Huang Huikang have reiterated the country's determination to go green and work toward a new global climate deal.

They have not been deterred by the recent probe initiated by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) into China's clean technology policies, initiated after the United Steelworkers union complained about Chinese government subsidies to the country's clean energy firms.

China has been very active in developing clean energy. Its clean energy investments totaled $34 billion in 2009, dwarfing the $18.6 billion by US companies, according to the Pew Environment Group Climate and Energy Program in Washington.

China has set the ambitious target of producing 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020. As a result, China's wind and solar power production capacity has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few years.

China's progress is reflected in this year's Ernst & Young Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices, in which China claimed first place. Last year, China tied with the US. Before that, the US always came top.

As the world's largest developing country and one of the biggest carbon emitters - although its per capita emissions are still relatively low - China has an obligation to lead the global fight against climate change. It is a battle in China's interest. Instead of waiting for the developed world to find solutions, China has adopted many proactive measures.

So, why all the fuss and probe? Is it better for China to do nothing and wait for the industrialized world to provide subsidies for it to go green? That seems even less feasible now, given that many of these countries are in serious debt.

China is not the only country whose government subsidizes the clean energy industry. Many governments have been doing so, in a bid to help their economies switch to a low carbon path.

For instance, in the US, a year ago President Barack Obama pledged tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers' money to fund the development of clean technology.

By actively developing clean technology, China may have saved industrialized nations billions of dollars in subsidies to the largest developing country.

The USTR's probe is only going to make people question how genuine the US government is in helping China go green. Shall we let the complaints of a few US companies prevent China from developing clean technologies?

Much of the complaints, as it turns out, are due to these companies' lack of competitiveness compared with their rivals in the European Union, Japan and Australia.

For years the US' will to go green has been seriously compromised by domestic politics. The US Senate has not yet approved the clean energy bill. Given the poor economic situation and the lame duck Congress after the midterm elections, there seems to be little hope that the bill will be passed any time soon.

While China and the US have been making good progress in pushing forward bilateral cooperation in clean technology research and development, it is US domestic politics that have undermined the US' efforts to go green.

Obama must feel embarrassed when he considers playing a leadership role at the upcoming Cancun conference on climate changes.

Please do not let this epidemic spread its impact to China.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily US Edition. He can be reached at

(China Daily 11/23/2010 page8)