China and the energy transition in Germany
China und die Energiewende
The People’s Republic of China faces massive challenges. It must develop and implement effective strategies for equitable, sustainable, low-carbon development. Average per capita CO2 emissions in China have now increased to 7.2 tonnes – close to the European level. The country is experiencing a construction boom, which will intensify as a result of the influx of an estimated 350 million people into China’s cities by 2020. Furthermore, by 2030, China plans to build more power plants than are currently connected to the grids in the USA, the UK and Australia together.
This rapid and sustained economic development and urbanisation in China requires rigorous implementation of low-carbon and climate policy strategies. The Chinese government has already achieved some notable successes in this area in recent years. Compared with 2006, China is now achieving the same economic output with 20 per cent less energy input. The country is now the world’s renewable energy leader, installing around 36 new wind turbines every day. It is developing a grid network which transports renewable-generated electricity from western regions to the major cities along the eastern seaboard. At the same time, it is rapidly expanding its long-distance rail network and is converting its entire local public transport system in some cities to hybrid vehicles and electromobility.
Under the current Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government has introduced binding environmental targets and initiated pilot programmes for low-carbon development for a full 25 per cent of the population in cities and provinces. These low-carbon development pilot regions in China and the transformation of energy systems in Germany are currently the major experiments for necessary low-carbon restructuring which are receiving the most attention and critical acclaim worldwide. If these two countries are able to combine a model for prosperity with a resolute low-emissions pathway, this will have major worldwide significance.
China can be an important partner in the transformation of Germany’s energy systems. Both countries have strengths which can be harnessed to mutual benefit. The major opportunities for partnerships and synergies must be developed and utilised at the various levels.
In Germany and China alike, the cities and municipalities are key to the successful transformation of energy systems and implementation of low-carbon development pilots. The success of these programmes will crucially depend on positive experience being gained at the local level. Here, emission reduction targets and strategies must be adapted and implemented with the involvement of citizens, companies, initiatives and local institutions. This is the only way to create ownership of the process.
Developing city partnerships into climate partnerships is a very promising approach in order to expand cooperation and promote knowledge exchange about practical strategies at the local level, build trust and confidence, and place climate protection firmly on the agenda. The City of Bonn is an important example. Together with its partner city of Chengdu, capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan, it plans to expand dialogue and the exchange of experience between decision-makers and experts from the administration, academia, civil society and the business community from Chengdu and Bonn, with a focus on climate protection and sustainable urban development. The partnership between the two cities can thus generate synergies and cooperation in support of the transformation to a low-carbon development pathway in the two cities and initiate mutual learning processes.