‘Addressing Climate Change – China in Action’ UNDP China and NDRC joint side event COP16 Cancun 1 December, 2010

01 Dec 2010

Speech by Ms. Renata Lok-DessallienUN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, China
'Addressing Climate Change – China in Action'
UNDP China and NDRC joint side event COP16 Cancun 1 December, 2010

Thank you all for joining us at this COP 16 side event on Addressing Climate Change in China. We have just heard China's Chief Climate Change Negotiator, Mr. Su Wei, outline the efforts and achievements made by his government to combat climate change.  Now I would like to say a few words on the subject, based on UNDP's 30 years experience working with and in China.  While China is responding to the climate change challenge  on numerous fronts, several areas  stand out in our view as particularly noteworthy.  Firstly, China has successfully mainstreamed climate change into its development agenda, and is actively attempting to forge a new development model that is both low carbon and sustainable in other respects as well.  This is well reflected, for instance, in China's institutional architecture for addressing climate change.  Secondly, and as an offshoot of this, China has set rigorous targets for energy efficiency and energy conservation, which have direct impact on carbon emissions.  And thirdly, China has made significant investments in the renewable energy field.  In each of these areas UNDP has worked closely with China over the years.

On mainstreaming climate change, it is important to remember that prior to the late 1990s China approached climate change from a purely scientific perspective.  The institution responsible for climate change was the China Meteorological Administration.   But this all changed in 1998 when the primary responsibility for climate change was shifted to the National Development and Reform Commission, the institution in charge of overall economic and social development planning.  As a result, the country was better able to coordinate the cross-sectoral challenges associated with climate change work, and to infuse the country's response into the national development agenda.  China's 'National Climate Change Programme' of 2007, also known as the climate plan, was another significant milestone in mainstreaming climate change. It provided a coherent policy framework to moderate greenhouse gas emissions as well as adaptation measures. An important outcome of the Climate Change Programme was the establishment of the National Leading Group to Assess Climate Change, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao (and with counterparts at the provincial and prefectural levels).  This lifted China's response to climate change to the highest political level. China's commitment to a low carbon development pathway is also reflected in the draft 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015), that stresses the importance of sustainable development and green growth. These are a few examples of how China has mainstreamed climate change into its overall development pursuit, a vitally important step for any country, but particularly significant for such a large economy with many years of sizable projected growth ahead of it. 

A second area in which China's effort stand out is in energy efficiency and conservation.  As China is among the biggest energy consumers in the world, its energy efficiency and conservation efforts are significant to global climate change.  China's Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006–2010) set the goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% by 2020. This was then broken down into provincial and sub-provincial targets, that are being met through a number of strategies, including shutting down small thermal power units (*1) and closing cement, steel, and iron factories that use obsolete and energy inefficient production technologies.  In 2008, the country amended its Energy Conservation Law and included a provision to hold provincial officials accountable for targets by linking them to the performance assessment system.  This sent strong positive incentives throughout the system, and accelerated progress markedly.

A third area where China's efforts to combat climate change stand out is the renewable sector.  While China has worked in this field for many years, in 2006 it promulgated the Renewable Energy Law that for the first time set a target to double the proportion of renewable in the total energy consumption mix, from about 7 percent to 15 percent, by 2020.  Investments in renewable, and by 2008  China became the world's biggest investor in clean energy at $34.6 billion, considerably more than the largest developed countries.    

These are three of many areas in which China is trying to address its climate change challenges.  UNDP has provided assistance in all of them, through institution building, development of standards, sharing of best practices, creation of enforcement mechanisms at national and sub-national levels,  and demonstration projects that test strategies and open up new horizons.  In addition to partnering with China to mainstream its response to climate change, UNDP also helped to implement many of the country's relevant national objectives and targets.  For instance, through our Provincial Climate Change Programme (2007-2010), 32 provinces/autonomous regions are developing their own  climate change programmes, 18 of which have already been approved. In addition, Provincial-level Climate Change-specific Leading Groups have been set up in 22 provinces/autonomous regions to ensure highest level political commitment and oversight.In the field of renewables, UNDP built capacity for technology improvement and market development, accelerating the commercialization of wind, biogas, solar heater technologies and village hybrid power systems. China is now a world leader in the manufacture of renewable energy tefchnologies, with 40% of global market share of solar panels in 2009,  30 percent of the world's wind turbines (up from 10 percent in 2007), and 77 percent of the world's solar hot water collectors.  While UNDP's assistance is a modest drop in the ocean when it comes to China, we were working with the government on renewable long before they became fashionable and, we believe, helped move them onto the radar screens of decision-makers.

UNDP also contributed to the development of energy conservation standards and regulations, to the revision of China's Energy Conservation Law, and to the elimination of barriers to implementation. A good example is our project to remove barriers to widespread commercialization of energy-efficient CFC-free refrigerators. This programme alone contributed to a 29% increase in refrigerator efficiency in China.  In 2009, recognition of the need to boost public awareness on climate change in China, UNDP partnered with   Renmin University, to produce this year's National Human Development Report on Low Carbon Economy and Society. The report highlights achievements to date, as well as remaining challenges that China needs to tackle to fully align its development process with a low carbon pathway.   It recommends that China endeavour to continue to balance growth and human development with environmental preservation and climate change objectives.  It outlines three possible future scenarios for this, along with costing and other ramifications.  The report also makes recommendations, highlighting the need for strengthened policy implementation, technology innovation, and more attention to adaptation measures.In addition, the report notes that China's cities will add some 350 million people in the next 20 years, more than the entire population of the United States. Lifestyle changes have already increased energy demand as people seek easier access to goods and services, modern household appliances and housing. The massive projected rural-urban migration will make it even harder to achieve energy and carbon targets in future.  The country's recently initiated drive to promote low carbon cities and provinces is laudable, but major technological breakthroughs are clearly needed here. 

As the largest developing country in the world, with its own sizable programme in support of other developing countries, China is in a unique position to inspire and promote sustainable, low carbon development not only at home but also abroad. In recognition of this, the Government of China and UNDP recently signed an agreement to strengthen our cooperation in sharing China's experience and knowledge with other developing countries in a range of fields, including climate change. China's experience and its ongoing innovations can save other developing countries much needed time and expense in their low carbon development imperatives.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the National Development and Reform Commission for inviting us to join them in this side event, and to say how pleased we are to support China in its efforts to transition to a low carbon, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable development model.  It is a tall task for any country, not to mention one striving to bring some 150 million remaining people out of poverty.  It has never been done before.  But China has the will to make it happen and, with some technological breakthroughs, she can and must succeed.   

 Note: (*1)In 2008 alone, 325 thermal power plants decommissioned. This represented a reduction of 16.29 GW which was twice that level achieved from decommissioning power plants for the period 2006-2007