Climate Change Issues
In India and China

Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the Climate Program for the World Resources Institute, reported on climate change issues in the region. Asia, which comprises 30% of the world’s land area and 60% of the world’s current population, faces severe consequences from disruptions related to climate change.

Noting that world leaders will meet in Paris in December 2015 for the Paris Climate Summit to finalize an international climate agreement for 2020 and beyond, Ms. Morgan reminded the Forum that stabilizing the global climate is the greatest challenge of the 21st Century. She reported that significant progress has been made toward the long-term goal to decarbonize the global economy over the course of this century. Many countries, including the US and the European Union (EU), have proposed plans to attain for post-2020 climate goals. More countries are expected to release climate-related commitments in the coming months. All of these actions set the stage for the upcoming Paris conference, Ms. Morgan noted.

She focused her talk on China and India, which are among the top 10 greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. The top 10 emitters contribute 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land-use change and forestry). GHG emissions from China contribute 25.36%, making it the top emitter, and India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Iran are also contributing relatively large shares of global emissions as their economies grow. India contributes 6.96% to global emissions compared with 14.4% from the US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Source: http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/06/infographic-what-do-your-countrys-emissions-look]

India

One-half of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, with New Delhi topping the list. Air pollution is the 5th leading cause of death in India, with 620,000 premature deaths in 2010. This is up from 100,000 in 2000⎯a 6-fold increase. The cost of health damage from particulate matter pollution in India is estimated at 5%-7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific international United Nations body, highlights temperature and precipitation risks for agricultural food production as crucial risks for India. Additional risks include increased floods, damage to infrastructure, livelihoods, and settlements, heat-linked human mortality, and increased drought-related water shortage.

Compounding these problems is the fact that 25% of the population, or 300 million people, currently have no electricity. India faces a profound decision about what energy sources will be harnessed to bring electricity to this huge population. Furthermore, in the next 20 years, more than 200 million people will move to the cities of India, which have traditionally been less urbanized. But by 2030, nearly 600 million people will be living in Indian cities, up from about 360 million today.

Substantial progress has been made since 2007, when the Prime Minister’s Council for Climate Change (PMCCC) was created. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), launched in June 2008, outlined measures to promote sustainable development while also yielding co-benefits to address climate change through domestic actions. In 2009, India put forth a pledge to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20%-25% by 2020 over its 2005 levels.

Focus on Renewables

Currently, 70% of India’s power is fossil-fuel-based; but the government has set an aggressive target for installation of renewable energy capacity at 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. The plan will augment electricity generation capacity substantially through a judicious mix of conventional and non-conventional sources comprising 100 GW solar power, 60 GW wind power, 10 GW biomass power, and 5 GW small hydropower. This represents a 33-times increase in solar capacity from the existing capacity. By 2022, India will have 8 times the solar capacity that the US has today.

Further efforts will include nuclear power projects for civilian purposes and connecting households and industries with gas grids. Reforms in the coal sector, such as phasing out regressive fossil fuel subsidies, are intended to attract private investment in a transparent manner. The government announced the “100 Smart Cities” project to develop sustainable cities, and has passed new rules that include a requirement to purchase renewables, a commitment to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and the creation of new standards and labeling rules as well as an Energy Conservation Building Code.

China

US-China Collaboration on Climate Change

Moving on to a discussion of China and climate change, Ms. Morgan reminded the Forum that President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made major climate change announcements together in Beijing in November 2014.

China is the foremost emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. However, in just a few years, China has gone from no international commitment on climate, to agreeing to reducing carbon intensity, to pledging to peak its emissions around 2030, and to make the best efforts to peak sooner. China also has pledged to use non-fossil sources to meet ~20% of its energy needs by 2030, which would represent an increase of 800-1,000 GW of non-fossil energy. China’s target is a significant move forward for climate action. It is achievable but will require a sustained effort by China to reach its goal.

At the meeting last November, the US also set a target of reducing GHG emissions by 26%-28% by 2025 (from a 2005 baseline). The joint announcement injected momentum into international climate action. The 2 countries also pledged to “strengthen cooperation on climate and clean energy,” and to establish the Climate Change Working Group (CCWG).

The areas of cooperation highlighted in the November joint announcement build on the agenda of the CCWG, which is led by the climate negotiators of each country and include a number of collaborative initiatives. The Clean Energy Research Center, created in 2009 in a meeting between President Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao, brings together scientists and engineers from America and China to work collaboratively on clean energy research and development. This past April, the US Departments of Energy and Commerce led a trade mission to China designed to promote US companies’ business in clean energy in China and to bolster America-China clean energy collaboration.

Together, they have embarked on a variety of initiatives, including joint research and development projects, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) projects, phasing down HFCs, Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Initiative to “share city-level experiences with planning, policies, and use of technologies for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon growth.” In addition, “Pilot programs, feasibility studies, and other collaborative efforts to promote China’s energy efficiency and renewable energy goals” have also been created.

Clean technology trade missions, such as the US-China Renewable Energy Partnership, bring together technical, academic, business, and political stakeholders from both countries to address significant barriers to the widespread deployment and integration of renewable energy.

China’s Action Plan

China’s action on climate change is motivated by strong national interests, including its economic and security interests, risks associated with pollution and climate change effects, and the country’s international reputation.

China’s climate plan calls for peak CO2 emissions around 2030, and to strive to peak earlier, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030, and reducing carbon intensity 60%-65% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Economy

China is warming an average of 0.23 degree Celsius each decade since mid-20th Century, almost twice as fast as the global average. The Tibetan permafrost decreased more than 10 inches in 50 years, threatening roads, railways, and the ecological system. The impacts of climate change are already damaging the Chinese economy through losses in agricultural productivity, decreased food security, and more frequent flooding, which will pose serious risks to the Chinese economy.

Coal-fired power accounts for 60% of industrial water demand in China, yet the country faces a water shortage of 40 billion m3 per year, and has seen its fresh water reserves decline by 35 billion m3 each year for the past decade. Meteorological disasters cost China direct economic losses equivalent to 1% GDP since 2000; 8 times the world average. The negative impact of climate change cost China over $71 billion in 2010, and that figure could increase 10-fold or more to nearly $748 billion per year by 2030 if no action is taken.

Two-thirds of cities do not meet China’s new national air quality standards, and air pollution is linked to 1.23 million premature deaths in 2010, costing 9.7%-13.2% of the GDP. Major environmental incidents rose 120% in 2011, and environmental protests have increased 26% annually since 1996.

China’s leaders recognize the need to shift away from energy-intensive industry toward services for economic growth to continue at its current pace. As services generally require less energy than the industrial sector, a rebalance toward services should have an emissions reduction benefit. The new Climate Economy Report China case study estimated considerable economic benefit from reduced air pollution and enhanced energy security associated with peaking of CO2 emissions by around 2030.

Focus on Renewables

To meet its non-fossil pledge, China will need to install 800-1,000 GW of non-fossil-fuel electricity-generation capacity, greater than today’s coal-fired capacity and almost the total current capacity of the US.

By 2020, China has committed to limit coal consumption to around 4.2 billion tons and to limit power generation from coal to 62% of primary energy. They placed a ban on new coal plants in 3 key industrial areas—Beijing/Tianjin/Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta—and set targets for absolute reductions in coal consumption in these regions.

A cap on coal consumption is expected to be considered for China’s upcoming 13th Five Year Plan Ban. The country also is planning to launch a national-level emissions trading system next year in key provinces and regions. By pricing carbon, China will encourage the move to renewables.

Renewables Investment: China led the world in renewable energy investment in 2014 with $89.5 billion, a 32% increase over 2013, compared to $51.8 billion in the US.

Wind: China now has 110.4 GW of wind capacity, followed by the US with 64.4 GW, while Germany has 38.8 GW.

Solar: China is second in the world with 32.9 GW of solar capacity; Germany, the world leader in solar energy, has 37.4 GW, while America has 18.4 GW.

Efficiency

China’s Energy Development Strategic Action Plan (2014-2020), set targets to control total energy and coal consumption by 2020, including a 16% reduction (from 2010 levels) in the energy intensity (energy consumed per unit of GDP) of its economy by this year (2015), and increases in the efficiency of coal plants. China’s plan prioritizes energy savings, with an anticipated cap on total energy consumption at 3.36 billion TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent) by 2020, compared with 2.98 billion TOE in 2014, and a cap on coal consumption at 4.2 billion metric tons, compared with 3.94 billion metric tons in 2014.

In an effort to eliminate old and inefficient factories, China has closed 570 million tons of cement and 75 million tons of steel capacity in the past four years. Under the “Top 10,000 Energy-Consuming Enterprises Program,” about 17,000 of China’s most energy-intensive enterprises are assigned targets for energy savings to incentivize improvements in energy efficiency.

China has also established demand-side management regulations to promote energy savings in the electricity sector.

As China is a net importer of fossil fuels, its leaders are increasingly concerned about the country’s energy security. The new policy focuses on domestic energy sources, setting a target that domestic sources will supply 85% of total energy consumption by 2020. By then, non-fossil fuel will provide 15% of total energy mix versus 10.1% in 2014, and natural gas will provide 10% or more (versus 6.7% in 2014), and the coal will be capped at 62% or less compared with 66% in 2014.

International Reputation

China would like to be viewed internationally as a responsible leader and wants to alleviate fears that its development poses a threat to international order. In 2014, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said:

“As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions.”

Discussion 

Tom Finneran (Moderator): What is the evidence for climate change?

Ms. Morgan: Some of the evidence for climate change stems from the more frequent occurrence of destructive weather events. Between 1980 and 2014, the US experienced 178 extreme weather events that each caused more $1 billion in damages. Furthermore, 14 of the last 16 years have been the warmest on record globally. Also, it has been more than 100 years since the coldest year on record, and temperatures have exceeded global annual averages for 38 consecutive years.

Of great concern is the rise of atmospheric CO2 levels, which reached 400 parts per million in 2013. That’s higher than any level the earth has experienced in more than 1 million years.

Mr. Steven Cook (Speaker): What are the effects of climate change that should be important to Senate Presidents?

Ms. Morgan: As we’ve seen with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe, with the resulting loss of life, damage to property, and tremendous costs to communities. Heat waves and drought plague many states, destroying agriculture, putting the food supply at risk, increasing the risk of wildfires, and endangering lives. Coastal communities such as Florida and the east and west coasts are threatened by rising sea levels, which menace infrastructure by amplifying flooding and storm surge.

Sen. Martin Looney (CT): You noted that there are 300 million people in India without electricity. How many individuals in China do not have electricity? Can India and China bring electricity to all those people and still have a net decline in their pollution footprints?

Ms. Morgan: In China, 5%-10% of that huge population is without electricity. As these people are being pulled out of poverty, there is a growing need to provide services.

The power sources used to provide electricity will determine the future emissions profiles of the 2 countries. Both need to reform their coal sectors. In addition, if solar becomes cost competitive, this could be a win for local villages. A major decision will be whether to create a centralized grid or to rely on decentralized, renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser (UT): Are China and India considering nuclear power?

Ms. Morgan: China set a goal of 20% of power from non-fossil-fuel-sources. This may come from nuclear generation or renewables. China had significant plans for nuclear power development, but this has been re-examined since the Japan tsunami and nuclear emergency. In India, a nuclear power program has been in place since the first Bush Administration, but the cost of nuclear technology may be prohibitive.

Sen. David Long (IN): Does China have significant natural gas reserves that they could tap?

Ms. Morgan: China has very little natural gas, and it is hard-to-extract shale gas. The Chinese are negotiating with Russia to obtain gas access contracts.

Sen. Ellen Roberts (CO): Economic stability is critically important to any country. Will China’s recent stock market losses negatively affect their INDC commitments? The US Government will make INDC commitments that affect the states, and we will have to work to comply with them. How do we know that other countries will meet their INDC commitments?

Ms. Morgan: This is a big question. After countries commit to their INDCs, they will be subject to the same monitoring and reporting standards. Every 2 years, countries will report their progress. Monitoring teams will have access to verifying these reports and determining whether countries are meeting their requirements. There is no enforcement mechanism beyond “Name and Shame.”

However, national self-interest will drive renewables policies because the real concerns are about climate change. The real challenges are air pollution, health costs, political disruption, and economic instability that a result of climate change. Every country is in the same boat.

Dr. Steven Cook (Speaker): How would it affect the American economy and the states if China or India fails to succeed in meeting its climate-related goals?

Ms. Morgan: If China and/or India does not meet their climate change commitments, global temperatures will rise and there will be more violent climate impacts that will be costly to the US. With every 0.5-degree Celsius increase in temperature, weather becomes more extreme. US agriculture and food supply are vulnerable to temperature increases. Rising temperatures will melt the snow pack, leading to more droughts and compromising water supplies. States with coastlines will be affected by rising sea levels. As sea levels rise, there is salt water intrusion and damage to infrastructure, destruction of property, disruption of services, and dislocation of people.

Sen. Kevin Meyer (AK): Alaska is building a $60-$70-billion gas pipeline to export natural gas. Is natural gas a clean-burning fossil fuel?

Ms. Morgan: Natural gas is a part of the solution moving forward. The future energy mix will include gas, renewables, and a focus on energy efficiency. With natural gas, methane emissions are the problem. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane and flaring emissions from natural gas amount to about one-third of the emissions from oil and coal, but these need to be captured. Carbon capture and storage are being worked on, and combined gas plants with carbon capture and storage capabilities are being developed. In Germany, which gets 80% of its power from renewables, gas is still an important part of the mix.

Sen. Troy Fraser (TX): A key challenge is transmission and storage of renewables. The fuel source is less of a problem than transmission and reliability of the grid.

Ms. Morgan: Yes, transmission and storage are key issues, but new developments in battery technology promise to be part of the solution.

Speaker Biography

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer is the Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute. In this capacity, she oversees the Institute’s work on climate change issues and guides WRI strategy in helping countries, governments, and individuals take positive action toward achieving a zero-carbon future. She is responsible for day-to-day management of the 60+ person program, and works closely with the WRI China, India, Brazil and Indonesia offices. In addition, Jennifer is WRI’s lead representative at international climate meetings, including the UNFCCC negotiations. She has published on international climate policy issues.

Prior to joining WRI in 2009, Jennifer worked at Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G) as Global Climate Change Director, where she led the organization’s climate change work on its full range of global activities. Before E3G, Jennifer led the Global Climate Change Program of Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), growing its climate program both in size and geography, with a focus on Asia Pacific. While at WWF, she headed its delegation to the seminal Kyoto Protocol climate negotiations. Jennifer’s career has also included working for the US Climate Action Network, and through the Robert Bosch Foundation, the European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future and for the German Federal Ministry of Environment, supporting the head of the German delegation to the UN climate change negotiations.

Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University in Political Science and Germanic Studies and a Masters of Arts from the School of International Service at The American University in International Affairs.

Jennifer has been cited in front-page articles in newspapers around the world on climate change and is regularly interviewed for radio and television programs. She has been Review Editor for the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She serves on the Germany Council on Sustainable Development and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. At Germanwatch’s 20th anniversary celebration, Jennifer was named an honorary member of the organization for her long-term commitment to international climate issues and the empowerment of civil society.

Other Foreign Relations articles:

Jennifer Morgan

Global Director of the Climate Program

World Resources Institute

 

 

25% of India’s population, or 300 million people, currently have no electricity. To meet this demand, India set an aggressive target for installation of renewable energy capacity at 175 gigawatts by 2022.

 

By 2022, India will have 8 times the solar capacity that the US has today.

 

China’s climate plan calls for peak CO2 emissions around 2030, and to strive to peak earlier, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030, and reducing carbon intensity 60%-65% from 2005 levels by 2030.

 

China’s climate plan calls for peak CO2 emissions around 2030, and to strive to peak earlier, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030, and reducing carbon intensity 60%-65% from 2005 levels by 2030.

 

Renewables Investment:
China led the world in renewable energy investment in 2014 with $89.5 billion, a 32% increase over 2013, compared to $51.8 billion in the US.

Wind:
China now has 110.4 GW of wind capacity, followed by the US with 64.4 GW, while Germany has 38.8 GW.

Solar:
China is second in the world with 32.9 GW of solar capacity; Germany, the world leader in solar energy, has 37.4 GW, while America has 18.4 GW.

Tonne of Oil Equivalent (TOE)

Unit representing energy generated by burning 1 metric ton or 7.4 barrels of oil, equivalent to the energy obtained from 1,270 cubic meters of natural gas or 1.4 metric tons of coal that is, 41.87 gigajoules (GJ), 39.68 million Btu (MMBtu), or 11.63 megawatt hours (MWh).

“As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions.”

– Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli

Of great concern is the rise of atmospheric  CO2 levels, which reached 400 parts per million in 2013. That’s higher than any level the earth has experienced in more than 1 million years.

Sen. Steven Cook

Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser

Defining INDCs

A new international climate agreement is expected to emerge from the United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Paris this coming December (2015). In preparation, countries are publicly outlining what climate actions they expect to take. These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) will determine whether the world achieves an ambitious agreement and is put on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

National self-interest will drive renewables policies because the real concerns are about climate change. The real challenges are air pollution, health costs, political disruption, and economic instability that a result of climate change. Every country is in the same boat.

With natural gas, methane emissions are the problem. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane and flaring emissions from natural gas amount to about one-third of the emissions from oil and coal, but these need to be captured.

Sen. Martin Looney

Sen. Kevin Meyer

Clean Energy Research Center

The Clean Energy Research Center, created in 2009 in a meeting between President Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao, brings together scientists and engineers from America and China to work collaboratively on clean energy research and development.

Sen. David Long

Sen. Ellen Roberts

Jennifer Morgan

Senate Presidents’ Forum

Phone: 914.693.1818

The Senate Presidents’ Forum is a nonpartisan, nonprofit
educational organization for State Senate leaders.

Copyright © 2017 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.