Can China Go Green?

Can China Go Green?

Environmental Issues in China

“Does China really want to go green?” – That is the question that Peggy Liu, the Chairperson of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, and a Time Magazine Environmental Hero, tries to answer in this fascinating lecture


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As China emerges as an economic powerhouse, its environmental issues are becoming increasingly important and its energy use is shooting through the roof; the country opens a new coal power plant every week. The resulting pollution is a global problem – a third of particulate matter pollution in California can be traced back to China. This “one atmosphere” nature of climate change was the catalyst for the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), a non-profit organization that brings together international expertise and green technologies to visibly change the way China creates and uses energy. JUCCCE views the challenge of changing the trajectory of energy use through a change management lens, rather than just a technology or policy lens. How do we reach key energy decision makers through scalable channels? How can we facilitate dialogue for mutual understanding?

Watch: Peggy Liu Talks about Environmental Issues in China


Environmental Issues in China is a big deal for Ms. Liu. ”I’m very careful not to just say – yes China is going green and China will go green, although that is obviously the answer.” Says Ms. Liu in a lecture she gave in New Zealand. “What people don’t understand is that there are many things that are happening in China; Things that you don’t see easily from outside the borders of China. For example, you might know that 80% of China’s energy comes from coal, and you might know that China builds a new coal power plant every 10 days or so, but you don’t hear that China has closed, this year alone, 1600 coal mines and that during 2006-2009 China shut down the equivalent of 7% of power generating capacity in small inefficient coal mines. You might not have heard of “Greengen” which is in Tianjin and will probably be the world’s most advanced near zero emissions coal fire power plant in the next five years. You might not have heard that China is going green because China understands that energy security and the stability of energy supply fuel the growth of nations. And so China has put forth a lot of progressive energy policies such as increasing forest coverage in the last five years by 20% and decreasing energy intensity per unit GDP by 20%. You (also) might not have heard that China has announced in the last few months that it wishes to reduce carbon emissions by 40-45% by 2020. These are just a sampling of the policies and the type of actions that are happening in China.”

Ms. Liu makes a strong point talking about the environmental issues in China by commenting that there is no debate in China about climate change but that climate change is rather a fact which Chinese citizens deal with every day. She redirects the discussion and answers a more valid question: can China go green fast enough?