The Winds of China Could Solve Climate Dilemma

BEIJING, China, September 17, 2004 (ENS ) - During four days of discussions this week in Beijing, Greenpeace, the European Wind Energy Association and the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association formed a new partnership, committing themselves to ensuring that wind power plays a key role in China’s energy future.

China is the world's most populous country, with a rapidly growing economy. And China is the second largest energy consumer, after the United States. Chinese production and consumption of coal, the country's dominant fuel, is the highest in the world.

Burning this fossil fuel emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, forcing increased global warming, which will create problems for China as well as the rest of the world. It is this destructive cycle that the three new partners aim to avert with wind power.

“Soaring oil imports, wild fluctuations in international oil prices, the mounting costs of extreme weather events and heightened concern over energy security mean that China’s commitment to renewables at this time is crucial," said Yu Jie of Greenpeace China.


An early wind power experiment in 2001. The State Power Corporation of China developed a pilot project using a wind/diesel/battery system to electrify 120 households on Xiao Qing Dao island located in the Yellow Sea off Shandong Province. The U.S. Energy Department provided four Bergey wind power generators. (Photo by Jerry Bianchi courtesy NREL)
But this is not a problem for China alone, the whole world has a vested interest in helping China meet its development needs without further destabilising the climate,” Yu said.

Increased global temperatures threaten to reduce the country’s rice production, and more than 60 percent of Chinese glaciers are anticipated to disappear by 2050, threatening the fresh water supply for more than 250 million Chinese.

The partners believe that the only long term sustainable solution to China’s energy crisis is through the adoption of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, micro-hydro, modern biomass and geothermal power, which not only provide clean energy but can create local industries and millions of jobs.

China needs clean power most urgently. According to a report by the World Health Organization, seven of the world's 10 most polluted cities are in China. The country's heavy use of unwashed coal leads to large emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

China also is important to any effort to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases, as it is projected to experience the largest absolute growth in carbon dioxide emissions between now and the year 2020.


Shangdu wind farm in Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China. June 1996. (Photo by William Wallace courtesy NREL)
China is a non-Annex I country under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, meaning that it has not agreed to binding targets for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. This is one reason given by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2001 for rejecting U.S. ratification of the protocol as he decided not to bind the United States to limitations that the developing countries such as China were not bound to.

But now the Chinese government has set a target to meet 12 percent of its power generation capacity from renewables by 2020. A portion of this new capacity will come from wind.

At their Beijing meeting, the three groups pledged to assist China to “meet, if not exceed, the new Renewable Energy targets” the government announced in June.

“The development of China’s new renewable energy law, which is expected to be finalized early next year, has generated great interest internationally. China’s anticipated entry into the global renewable energy market is expected to have a profound impact on the global industry,” said Li Junfeng, secretary general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association.

"We have spent a lot of time and energy learning from the successes and failures of our partners in Europe and around the world," said Li. "We believe that this law can start a renewable energy revolution in China.”


Corin Millais, executive director of the European Wind Energy Association presents an early version of "Wind Force 12 - China" at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in October 2002 in New Delhi, India. (Photo courtesy IISD)
In May, the three groups launched the report "Wind Force 12 - China," an industry scenario which showed that by 2020 China is capable of installing 170 gigawatts of wind power, delivering annual savings of 325 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The report shows how to create an industrial manufacturing capacity for wind turbines and outlines the policy frameworks necessary to unlock these opportunities with a combination of public, private and citizen inputs.

“European experience has shown that with the right policy framework wind energy can play a major role in China’s energy future,” said Corin Millais, executive director of the European Wind Energy Association.

“We believe there is a real potential for China to become a major player in the global wind power industry," he said, "and anticipate greater cooperation with our Chinese partners.”