With a growing, wealthier population, China has become the world's largest energy consumer—and with it, the world's greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The inescapable importance of China to global energy and climate efforts has compelled the Joint Program on Global Change—in collaboration with Tsinghua University—to launch a special research effort called the China Energy and Climate Project.
"China has become one of the most important economies in the world, and certainly in terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions,” Joint Program co-director John Reilly said. “This project will help transfer knowledge of what we have learned in Europe and the United States on energy and greenhouse gas mitigation to China’s policymakers, help them understand what is happening in the U.S. and Europe, and how our economies and efforts to limit global environmental change are linked. It will also help to develop a better understanding by industry and policymakers outside of China of what is happening there. We expect two-way learning, and with a shared view of the problem a better chance for a global solution.”
These objectives were the focus of the Project’s First Annual Stakeholders Meeting this May in Beijing, China. The annual stakeholder meeting, which this year attracted high-level government leaders and distinguished researchers from throughout the world, will be the Project’s main vehicle for communicating results going forward. It was followed by an intimate Sponsors’ meeting—including founding partners ICF International, AFD, Eni and Shell—to discuss the latest research results in detail and directions for future work.
”We’ve made great strides in developing the tools needed to establish a strong foundation for future work,” project director Valerie Karplus said. “At the First Annual Stakeholders Meeting, we demonstrated how our new tools can be used to assess the energy, environmental and economic impacts of policy proposals in China at both the provincial and global scale—a significant step in just nine months.”
The leaders of the two parent organizations collaborating on the Project, Reilly and the director of Tsinghua’s Institute for Energy, Environment and Economy Zhang Xiliang, were the main presenters at the May 17th stakeholder meeting. Along with reviewing the objectives, structure and timeline of the Project, Reilly and Zhang showcased the capabilities of the two new research models developed and their practical use to help government and industry leaders make important policy decisions.
The China-Global Energy Model (C-GEM) and China Regional Energy Model (C-REM) are being used to assess the impacts of various climate and energy policies described under China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan, along with other policies such as managed electricity and fuel prices, production incentives for state-owned enterprises, and the implications of rapid changes in China’s economic structure, urbanization and wealth. While the China-Global Energy Model represents China as a single region and includes detailed global regions, the China Regional Energy Model includes individual provinces within China but aggregates the rest of the world into just a few regions (the US, Europe and Rest of World).
"Models that capture the unique features of China’s economy and energy system are essential to inform the policy discussion in China,” Zhang said. “The tools that our collaborative research team is developing will have a big impact on the policy process here."
Along with presenting details about the models, Reilly and Zhang summarized other objectives of the Project, including the use of MIT’s Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model to study the impact of transportation, energy and pollution reduction policies. The researchers involved in the project will also analyze sector-specific sources of carbon in China’s trade and the impacts of policies designed to reduce China’s energy-intensive exports.
The government officials present at the meeting—which included the Deputy Director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission Zhen Sun, and the Sector Chiefs for the country’s National Energy Administration, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology and National Natural Science Foundation of China—provided feedback on the results so far. Each member indicated the new developments represented an important set of tools that were strongly needed to address complex questions facing policymakers.
”The meeting established a strong and candid dialogue between our team and China’s leading energy and climate policymakers,” Karplus said. “By understanding policy priorities and concerns, we can improve the communication of our results, as well as gain new ideas for future research. We look forward to another dynamic and productive year.”