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Energy Security and Climate Change

Challenges for Politics and Law in China and Europe

The question how energy supply can be safeguarded under a sustainable climate policy is one of the key issues in national and global energy strategies. Together with the Research Institute of Environmental Law of Wuhan University (RIEL) and the German Embassy Beijing, KAS Shanghai held a conference on Energy Security and Climate Change.

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In order to keep the scenic impact of climate change as low as possible, common action by the international community, but also within every member country is required. China’s coal use increase has contributed 67% of the growth in global emissions in the last 5 years. Thus, measures to reduce China’s carbon footprint are essential in mitigating the impact of climate change. United Nations Climate Change Conferences since Kopenhagen 2009 have shown how difficult it is to form a basis for an agreement which is to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

The conference on climate change and energy security provided a platform, where challenges of national climate policies were linked to approaches of global climate policy.

In their welcoming remarks, Prof. Dr. Xiao Dean of the School of Law, Wuhan University, Cordula Geinitz, First Secretary, Environment and Climate Policy, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and Dr. Peter Hefele, Director KAS office Shanghai stressed the importance of the topic on national as well as global level and its role as one of the strategic dimensions in Sino-German cooperation.

In the first and second session challenges for international and national energy policies were stressed. Prof. Liu Xiying illustrated the multiple objectives of negotiating countries in climate change conferences and concluded that it needs a new approach with a clear chosen strategy. This should also include refocusing every connected sector of an energy system. The different challenges China faces were introduced by Prof. Xiao Guoxing, Chinese Society of Energy Law. He argued that the biggest challenge for China in carrying out an efficient energy strategy revives from the lack of a legal framework. A transformation in China’s energy sector appears to be difficult because that would require major reforms of the institutional arrangements.

Dr. Sven-Uwe Müller introduced Germany’s energy transformation “Energiewende” and emphasised that it is not only about a technological transformation, but also aims to change the behaviour in energy consumption. While the cost efficiency for renewable energies is increasing, the biggest challenge remains to increase the transmission capacities of the distribution grids.

Prof. Dr. Harmut Weyer, TU Clausthal, elaborated on the development and transmission problems in Germany’s “Energiewende”. He stressed the need to build new grids or establish smart distribution systems to connect the more than 700.000 installations of renewable energies in the transmission net. Although conventional energy plants are still necessary to back up and compensate the lack of transmission. Technically, the system works and will show advantages in mid- and long term.

The third session tackled the role of non-state actors in energy policy. Representatives from civil society, a Wuhan City pilot project and private sector presented their work and contribution in energy policy. Dirk Rommeney from German Watch stressed the social dimension of energy policy and climate change. He pointed out the need to incorporate further stakeholders, by actively including NGOs and private sector to achieve a transition in energy behaviour toward sustainable development. Ms. Tian Yanfrom Wuhan Society of Low-Carbon and representatives from private sector introduced their incentives to achieve a reduction of emissions as well as their CSR- measures.

The linkage of energy security and climate change was discussed in the 4th session.

Prof. Jiang Kejun from the National Development and Reform Commission made clear that China’s approaches in energy security will help to mitigate the emission distribution. Prof. Weyer argued that climate policy can help to reduce the import dependency on energy minerals and thus decrease the dangers of unstable prices and political circumstances.

Discussing strategies to reduce the carbon emissions, the panelists discussed measures of carbon capture, such as building a pipeline network. They agreed on the importance to do intensive research on the capacities of storage sides before starting to apply such techniques.

On the second day, strategies in China to combat climate change were introduced and the difficult question of “common but different responsibilities” discussed.

Ms.Ding Ding from the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation discussed the new development in China’s climate policy. She argued that arrangements of legislation on the different administrative levels are necessary and introduced the impact assessment system which incorporates a set of emission reduction targets and energy conservation projects. Prof. Jiang Xiaoqi from Wuhan University discussed the current state of Climate change legislation in China and proposed an umbrella-shaped legislation; incorporating energy policy and making climate change a chapter of energy law.

Discussing the current sate and issues in international climate change negotiations, Prof. Eckard Rehbinder, Frankfurt University, stated that the “common but differentiated responsibilities” are still the fundamental principal. He called for more common responsibility and argued that if a country contributes more to the problem, it should take stronger responsibility. Thus the classification in developed vs. developing countries would be too simple. Mr. Zhang Xiaohuafrom the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation demanded to resolve financial aid to developing countries in particular the least developed countries and promote more South-South cooperation.

Tackling the question whether the EU ETS is a model for a global carbon market, Prof. Anita Engels , University Hamburg, introduced her research project on assessing the European ETS. She highlighted failures and problems in the current EU ETS such as a lack of features to stimulate companies to participate in the trade of emissions as well as failing in generating a meaningful long-term price signal for emitters. She concluded that in its current state, an inclusion of more geo-political units in the EU ETS is likely to increase its current problems.

The last two sessions included cases of local activities on climate change and the role of public participation.

Ms Ji Haiyin, Officer of the Hubei Provincial Department of Environmental Protection, introduced measures of her department to mitigate emissions. Their overall strategy aims to adjust and transform the industry into a service-based one.

Mr. Hao Shaofeng, Officer at local taxation Bureau of Huangshi City, introduced the deliberations to turn the environmental-based novel tax, property tax as well as foreign investment tax and fuel tax into a comprised environmental tax. He stressed that there is already a set of policies existing to encourage environmental friendly behavior.

Mr. Li Shuo, Greenpeace China, presented his view and experiences from the view of a civil society organization. He stressed that the topics water pollution, water scarcity, air pollution and climate change are very much connected to the way we use energy and that surveys show the increasing concerns in the Chinese public; showing that public resistance becomes one of the leading challenges for environmental governance.

The final session discussed the role and dimension of public participation in environment. Prof. Rehbinder and Prof. Cai Shouqiu gave an overview on developments in this respective field in Germany and China. Prof. Rehbinder introduced different forms of procedures for public participation in legislation and the newest initiatives such as the early volunteer procedure which includes the public from an early stage of a project. In China, forms of including the public are also discussed. Prof. Cai pointed out that since 2012 the State Council has appointed requirements to increase the transparency of projects and decisions. In the following round table discussion, different deliberations and issues such as the demand to acquire accurate information were discussed. It was concluded, what really matters is to create platforms as a base for action.

The conference enabled valuable exchange on legal and political issues and experiences in regard to energy security and climate change. KAS Shanghai together with RIELS and the German Embassy Beijing added an important note to the discussion on global and national strategies to mitigate global warming by linking it to the topic energy security.

The conference showed that although implementing sets of policies on different administrative levels, China’s approach needs to embed its environmental policy in a comprehensive environmental law. It furthermore remains an important task to enhance measures which help to increase the awareness and understanding toward sustainable development and its global implication – and thus the responsibility of individuals in their role as stakeholders in energy – and climate policy.

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Tim Wenniges


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