TIANJIN: It seems to be a contradiction for a manufacturing powerhouse to lead the campaign on energy conservation and environmental protection, but Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) is working hard to achieve this.
TEDA, a high-end manufacturing industrial powerhouse, recently won the opportunity to start a four-year industrial symbiosis program, which is one of major projects involving international cooperation on enhancing energy efficiency and strengthening environmental protection.
The program, called the EU Switch-Asia TBNA Industrial Symbiosis Project, will be financed by the European Union and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It is the first time for TEDA to be granted such an environmentally friendly project by international bodies, said He Shushan, director of TEDA Administrative Committee.
Industrial symbiosis is a novel approach to ensuring environmentally sustainable industrial development, such as through establishing an energy-efficient supply chain system.
"It will be a hard and complicated journey to achieve a low-carbon-oriented growth pattern, especially when conventional industries are still dominating the economy," He admitted.
The four-year Switch-Asia project in TEDA will require 1.85 million euros ($2.48 million) in investment, of which the EU will contribute 1.48 million euros.
The project will bring direct environmental and economical benefits, said Johan Cauwenbergh, minister counselor of the European Union.
"The transition to a low-carbon economy will not be an easy one. But we know one thing: The longer we postpone taking the necessary steps, the more it will hurt our economy," Cauwenbergh said.
TEDA is determined to establish itself as a platform for technological exchanges on energy efficiency enhancement and environmental protection, driving the low-carbon-oriented economy forward and stimulating the economic development of the Bohai Bay region, according to He.
"I believe it has great potential here in China. UNIDO's Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Beijing has been working closely with TEDA and its partners since 2008 to design the project and mobilize the necessary funds," Edward Clarence-Smith, representative of UNIDO, said.
The project will replicate approaches that have proven very effective in the United Kingdom.
The EU Switch-Asia TBNA Industrial Symbiosis Project was officially launched in Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) late last month, when a supplementary project, TEDA Low Carbon Economy Promotion Center, started operations.
The TEDA Low Carbon Promotion Center is expected to serve as an information- and technology-sharing platform for carbon emission reduction and energy efficiency enhancement.
Adapting these models to China may prove to be challenging, but if this can be done successfully, they could be further replicated throughout the country and have a tremendous impact, according to Smith.
In total, nine Switch projects are currently running in China, involving a total EU contribution of close to 14 million euros ($18.76 million). These projects are demonstrating environmentally and socially sustainable production and procurement processes in various sectors of the economy, from energy-efficient electric motors to green buildings and responsible trade in timber, said Cauwenbergh.
In the TEDA project, more than 800 small and medium-sized enterprises, suppliers of important multinationals, will be actively involved. The synergies between them will result in important reductions of waste, water, and CO2 emissions, and at the same time will also result in significant cost saving for these companies. The tools and systems, which have proven successful to develop industrial symbiosis in the United Kingdom, will be transferred and adapted to TEDA's requirements.
"Sufficient information on low-carbon technology, expertise and experience are still not available in terms of enhancing energy efficiency and protecting the environment. That is where the center can play a role. It is supposed to serve as a platform for information sharing and exchanging," Zhang Jun, deputy director of TEDA Administrative Committee, said.
Cooperation between the EU and China on energy efficiency and sustainable development is based on common values in this area.
According to Cauwenbergh, the EU has set itself a forward-looking and ambitious objective on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy saving and energy diversification. It terms this as the "next industrial revolution in Europe", transforming its economy into an energy saving low-carbon one.
What has struck Cauwenbergh since he started his work in China is the large number of energy and environmental policies that the EU and China have in common.
"First, on energy, we have similar targets in terms of energy diversification and increasing the share of renewable energy. We also have similar targets for energy intensity and energy efficiency. In addition, we have energy efficiency standards for cars, buildings and household appliances. We also have research programs for the development of photovoltaics, hydrogen fuel-cells and carbon capture and storage."
On emission reduction, the EU and China both have programs that limit the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted every year. And the EU and China have specific standards for wastewater treatment, power plants and vehicles. On climate change, the EU and China are the two leading players in the emerging global carbon market.
The EU has successfully introduced the world's biggest greenhouse gas emissions trading system and China is the biggest producer of carbon credits from CDM projects, most of which are bought by European companies in order to reduce their cost of compliance with the EU emissions trading system.