» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

China making inroads on emissions

After a 12-day summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, 193 leaders from around the world reached an agreement on how to combat climate change.

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 10:09 PM

BEIJING - When it comes to climbing China's bureaucratic ladder, closing factories to cut greenhouse gas emissions can be a career booster.

This Story

Huang Huikang, as vice mayor of Tangshan in northeastern China, made energy efficiency one of his top priorities, taking aggressive steps to curb greenhouse gases from the city's many factories. Today he is China's special representative on climate change, negotiating with officials from countries worldwide.

As Huang explains it, he and his colleagues managed - at least in one city - to meet the challenge of reducing emissions while still promoting rapid economic growth.

They did not simply shutter factories in Tangshan, a major steel- and cement-producing center, but replaced them with cleaner-burning plants. Of course making these changes by government fiat is easier in a country where officials do not face democratic elections.

"We shut down 1,500 highly-polluting factories," Huang said, adding that even as he did so the city's gross domestic product doubled twice in the past five years, to $400 million.

In the United States, many politicians are reluctant to impose mandatory curbs on heat-trapping gases, fearing a political backlash. But the Chinese government has begun to make some inroads into its greenhouse gas emissions by holding accountable local and provincial officials - as well as the nation's top 1,000 emitters.

In some cases the Chinese government is relying on stopgap measures to meet this year's target to improve energy efficiency per unit of economic activity.

In the campaign that began in August, several provincial governments have ordered steel mills to work nine days straight and then take five days off and cut off cement plants' electricity supplies for periods of time, threatening to publicly expose factories that defy the new rules.

But the lack of a national accounting standard for emissions makes it difficult for independent observers in China and elsewhere to monitor how much progress is being made.

Ranping Song, WRI's program manager working on greenhouse gas accounting, said his group and others are working on how to bring China into compliance with international standards, but it remains unclear whether companies will disclose their data publicly, and how they'll be held accountable if they miss targets.

"It may be difficult for the government to get the right information to make the right decisions," he said.

Without a transparent and comparable system of lowering global warming emissions, Center for Clean Air Policy president Ned Helme warned, "there's always the risk that some people don't do it" and the world falls short of "where we need to be as a global commons."

CONTINUED     1        >

» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

More Asia Coverage

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy - China News

The latest on China from our partners at FP magazine.


Connect Online

Share and comment on Post world news on Facebook and Twitter.

North Korean Prison Camps

North Korean Prison Camps

Interactive map of five major prison camps in the country.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile