The New York Times reports on a visit to China by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to discuss climate change and on China’s efforts to dominate the market for renewable energy equipment:
Calling renewable energy a strategic industry, China is trying hard to make sure that its companies dominate globally. Just as Japan and South Korea made it hard for Detroit automakers to compete in those countries — giving their own automakers time to amass economies of scale in sheltered domestic markets — China is shielding its clean energy sector while it grows to a point where it can take on the world.
Steven Chu, the American energy secretary, and Gary Locke, the commerce secretary, are coming here to discuss clean energy and global warming with Chinese leaders, and to see if progress can be made toward getting China to agree to specific targets for reductions in greenhouse gases. Agreement proved elusive during the Group of 8 summit meeting last week in Italy.
But Mr. Chu and Mr. Locke arrive as Western companies, especially Europeans, are complaining increasingly about Beijing’s green protectionism.
China and the United States produce an estimated 40 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted worldwide. While the two countries have not always agreed on how to best tackle climate change, a renewed focus on environmental issues may provide the basis for cooperation in the spirit of reducing ecological damage.
In their formal positions, the two sides remain far apart. China wants developed nations to make a 40 percent cut in emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels, far beyond the goal set by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which plans to reduce the emissions by 2020 to the level of 1990.
The U.S. wants China to set voluntary, but verifiable, goals to reduce its energy use and, in the longer term, to join richer nations in cutting overall emissions.
China’s reality offers a plethora of opportunities for cooperation.
For an on-the-ground look at China’s renewable energy industry, see this post in which Greenpeace visits a Chinese wind farm and writes about it.