China co-operation holds promise

United States Vice President Al Gore announced a broad initiative early last month to help China and the US co-operate more on energy and environmental science, technology and trade. Secretary of Energy Federico Peña and Minister Zeng Peiyan, Vice Chairman of China's State Planning Commission, also signed the first comprehensive statement on energy and the environment between the world's two largest energy consuming nations.

While most of the five year initiative is focused upon conventional fuels, it is also to promote trade and investment in renewables to help meet China's growing energy needs. China's demand is expected to double with 20 years and the initiative will target what both countries agree is an urgent pollution problem, along with the need to bring rural electrification to nearly 100 million Chinese people. The joint statement was signed during a US-China summit between Presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin and was an outgrowth of the US-China Environment and Development Forum established in March 1997 during Gore's visit to Beijing.

Peña and Zeng also discussed setting up a $50 million "commercial credit facility" at the US Export-Import Bank for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in China. The US Department of Energy would help China identify renewables projects. "With the momentum building for international co-operation on the environment, this is an opportune time to expand US-Chinese co-operation in ways that will benefit both the environment and the global economy," says Gore. "By applying the vast array of scientific and technologies tools and promoting the private sector's participation, we are opening the way for meeting China's and, in turn, the worldwide energy challenges of the future."

What that appears to mean for wind is $150,000 in credit for small village pilot projects, technology analysis and instrumentation sites. "It's very thinly funded," concedes Kevin Rackstraw of the American Wind Energy Association. "It includes very good ideas and style, but they're going to have to come forward with some more funding." A small amount of resource assessment has already been funded, he said. One of the reasons for the announcement, says Rackstraw, is because Clinton has promised $5 billion in climate change funds to USAID, the national agency for international development. It, however, cannot operate in China because it is forbidden to do so in communist countries.

C02 rankings

The news came just before a new survey by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicating that the US and China are the world's worst polluters in terms of global warming gases, along with Russia and Japan. The four nations produce almost half of overall global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the survey issued last month. The US, which tops the rankings with 23.7% of total CO2 emissions in 1995, produces about 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person annually, it showed. The statistics cover emissions from all kinds of fossil fuel, including coal, oil and gas.

China, whose 1.2 billion population is roughly five times that of the US, produced about 13.6% of global CO2 emissions, but only about 2.51 metric tons annually on a per capita basis. Russia produced about 7% of emissions in 1995, Japan produced 5.2%, Germany 4%, the UK 2.6% and the Netherlands 0.8%. Per capita their emissions ranged from about 9 to 12 tons, with the Netherlands heading the list. Total global emissions of CO2 in 1995 were 22,038 million metric tons.

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