China’s Clean Energy Challenges
China’s new leadership faces complicated, pressing demands in shaping its energy policy. Air pollution has become a major political, social and even international issue that has moved high up on the leadership’s agenda. Growing turmoil in the Middle East is increasing Beijing’s concerns about its future energy security. Further, as the world’s largest current emitter of greenhouse gases, China enters international climate change negotiations in a sensitive position. Additionally, the nuclear disaster in Japan has increased China’s sensitivity to the safety risks associated with reliance on nuclear power as a possible solution to the country’s growing energy and environmental demands.
In this context, China’s new leadership has explicitly made developing an “ecological civilization” one of the pillars of its reform efforts. Development of China’s reportedly large deposits of shale gas, expansion of its “clean coal” capabilities and increased nuclear power generation are important components of this effort.
On February 6, the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion to evaluate China’s changing energy priorities and policies, their implications for U.S.-China energy cooperation and the growing demand and prospects for China’s energy future.
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[On the Chinese net zero emissions goal on climate change] What President Xi said is enormously important. It's a huge step for China, who has never said anything like this before.
[On China's carbon neutrality goal] There is a long-term trajectory toward more efficiency and lower emissions in China, and it is possible that we have already seen peak coal consumption and now peaking emissions. But getting to zero will be really hard, and so far none of the policy detail needed to evaluate that is in place.
[On the U.S. and China] We will have to learn to manage a relationship marked by both competition and collaboration, working with allies to stand up against unacceptable Chinese behavior where necessary, while seeking to collaborate where we can and must.