On September 27, the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy hosted a workshop bringing representatives from think tanks, universities, international organizations, embassies, and industries together to discuss expectations for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The workshop covered three topics: global climate governance, challenges to China and India in facing the coal consumption peak, and the role of social sciences in climate research.
Above: Mukul Sanwal and Yang Fuqiang
The first session was a dialogue between Mukul Sanwal, former senior adviser at United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and UNFCCC Secretariat and Professor Zou Ji, deputy director of China’s National Centre for Climate Change. Although both speakers agreed that the Paris Agreement indicated tremendous consensuses on crucial topics, they stressed that further steps should be taken towards detailed policies and implementation, as countries hold conflicting interpretations of the agreement; topics such as the roles of non-government organizations are not yet included in the negotiation.
Speakers highlighted the importance of social sciences in climate change research and recommended to focus on more narrow issues such as individual energy consumption levels and green lifestyles. Communication problems in climate negotiations should be tackled in order to put outcomes of social sciences research into practical effect.
Above: Hu Min moderating the panel discussion
The dialogue was followed by a lively panel discussion featuring Zhang Xiliang and Teng Fei, both from Tsinghua University, and Yang Fuqiang, senior advisor from Natural Resources Defense Council. Hu Min, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings-Tsinghua Center hosted the discussion.
The highlight of the discussion was that speakers exchanged views on China’s coal consumption peak. They argued that China reaching coal consumption peak is not a definite indication that China’s coal consumption is shrinking. Chances are that China’s coal consumption will plateau at peak level in the near future. Meanwhile, alternative resources are key in decreasing coal consumption and transitioning the current energy structure.
For India, however, it is still a difficult task to provide a population of 600 million with sufficient and affordable electricity. This is primarily why coal consumption remains irreplaceable in ending poverty. Besides alternative energy sources, the information technology and shared economy will also open opportunities for a low-carbon economy. Domestic political status and economic structure are risks to commitment to the international agreement.
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[While China was initially focused on former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N,] Beijing has diversified its contacts and investments in Pakistan... Khan does not have a lot of wiggle room...We may continue to see a gradual trend of Pakistan drifting closer to China and more distant from the United States. But that would have to do with a number of factors beyond Imran Khan’s election.