Tuesday, 22 December 2009
CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN's SPEECH ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate Change and China
London School of Economics
Ambassador Fu Ying
12 December, 2009
Professor Corbridge, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to talk to you on such an important subject
as climate change.
It's a special honour, because the LSE is well-known for
its scholarship on climate change and its crucial
contribution to this global debate.
China is a huge country with a population of 1.3 billion.
It has diverse climatic conditions and a fragile
environment. The effect of climate change is a very real
threat which we face everyday.
According to Chinese scientists, the average temperature in
China has risen by 1.1 degrees centigrade in the last 5
It is higher than the reported global average. We are
seeing more frequent bouts of extreme weather in many parts
of the country. Last spring, for example, the most severe
drought in 50 years hit northern China affecting the
livelihood of 4 million people.
Environmental damage and climate change is a reality for
us. Out of the world's most polluted 20 cities, half are in
70% of Chinese rivers are polluted to some degree. China
has become the largest carbon emitter of the world.
How have we got here? China has reached this stage when it
is making great endeavours to lift people out of poverty.
Unlike you here, we have condensed 2 centuries of
industrialization into only 30 years.
Now, the Chinese people have woken to the threat and, with
the same zeal that we have embraced industrialization, we
are embracing cleaner development.
In China, climate change is not just a topic for
discussion; It's backed up with policy and action
throughout the country. Let me share some examples with
First, on the legal and policy front. China set forward a
voluntary reduction program for 2006 to 2010 period,
including 20% reduction in energy intensity per unit of
To achieve this, we amended the Law on Energy Saving and
the Law on Renewable Energy. We've also set up a strict
evaluation system for energy efficiency. This enables the
central government to hold provincial leaders accountable
for meeting energy efficiency targets.
Last month, the evaluation result for 2008 was released on
the web for all to access. Out of 31 provinces and regions,
26 fulfilled emission reduction targets. One can't
underscore enough the importance of having such
transparency as it places great pressure on those who are
not meeting the target.
Beijing is doing better, over-fulfilling its target for
2008, with over 7%. I am sure the Olympics helped. It has
already achieved over 17% for the 20% target of 2010. At
the bottom, you can see Xinjiang. It is lagging far behind
and looks unlikely to meet the target and would need a lot
Secondly, now the industries have to take very tough
decisions to achieve clean development. Projects with high
emission can no longer go ahead and some existing high
emitters are being phased out.
It is understandably difficult to push through such reforms
and there is, inevitably, resistance. Being a developing
country, shutting down factories means job losses for many
who need them.
For example, we have achieved cutting down the average
consumption of coal per unit of power by 20%, by
demolishing the high-polluting and inefficient power
plants. But it led to the loss of 400,000 jobs.
So the third point is that we have increased and will
continue to increase the percentage of cleaner alternative
energy sources. Low-carbon and energy conservation have
become new growth sectors in China. Many British companies
are actively involved in clean development projects in
In the first 9 months of this year, clean energy
contributed a third of China's newly added power capacity.
China now ranks as first in the world for solar heating and
photovoltaic generation, as well as installed hydro power
capacity. You may be surprised to know, 1 in 10 families in
China already use solar energy. That includes my family.
Many new buildings in Chinese cities are equipped with
solar energy. The fact that the Chinese people are so keen
to adopt clean energy is an excellent indicator of our
dedication to a better future.
Next, let's talk about trees and reforestation. We all know
how trees can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Chinese
people have really taken tree-planting to heart. It has
even become fashionable for young couples to plant trees to
mark their wedding. China has planted more trees than any
other country in the world, with 2.6 billion trees planted.
That is 2 trees per individual, an incredible number.
Last but not least, the only means for China to really
achieve its ambitious plan is through science and
technology. This is why China is investing heavily in
research and development. The country has become a giant
laboratory for testing all kinds of clean energy
In the latest stimulus package worth 400 billion pound, 15%
was invested in addressing climate change. I am sure you
will agree that it is a huge amount by any standard,
especially during the financial crisis.
Thanks to all these efforts, China is well on track to
reach our targets set for 2010. That would mean a reduction
in CO2 emissions of 1.5 billion tons in five years by 2010.
This is an achievement that compares well with the efforts
of other countries.
At the UN climate change summit last September, President
Hu Jintao stated that China would take even further steps
to counter climate change. To follow up, the Chinese
government has announced its targets for 2020 based on 2005
- bringing down CO2 per unit of GDP by 40-45%,
- increasing the ratio of non-fossil energy to 15%,
- expanding forest coverage by 40 million hectares, that is
bigger than one and half times the size of United Kingdom.
We will make all these into compulsory and verifiable
targets, within the framework of our domestic development
program. I hope you will appreciate that achieving these
targets and further reducing emission will get increasingly
Let me elaborate on that point. We have already closed down
many of the old and high energy consuming factories, That
is to say, the easier part is done.
Between 1990 to 2005, the per unit GDP energy consumption
came down by 47% and between 2005 to 2010 it will again
come down by 20%. The next will be raising the energy
efficiency of the remaining plants. It's going to cost more
and involve more sacrifice to reduce further.
This is why investing in research and development is so
critical for us, as only innovation can help China to make
that leap. And this is why we are looking to developed
countries for technology transfer and capacity building.
According to the International Energy Agency, if China
fulfils its target for 2020, it will have reduced its
emissions of CO2 by 1 billion tons. That will be a great
achievement, given that we are a developing country and we
have equally pressing survival priorities.
If you would allow me, I'd like to expand on this point;
China may soon become the 2nd largest economy in the world.
Yet it remains a developing country. This is something that
many people often forget. China's per capita GDP has just
passed 3,000 US dollars. UK and US are 13 to 15 times that
of China. China is behind Jamaica and Namibia.
Now, let me ask you all a question: In which year in
history do you think Britain was at the same income level
China now is at? According to British economist Angus
Maddison, the answer is the year 1913.
In per capita GDP terms, China only ranks at 104th place in
the world. It might be a surprise to some of you that China
has 135 million people living under one dollar a day.
Sometimes even the most basic things that we take for
granted, like water, are beyond the reach of some Chinese
Take for example, in China's northwest, water is so scarce
that farmers in a village in Gansu province only take three
baths in their entire life, at birth, at marriage and at
When discussing climate change, we tend to talk mostly
about facts and figures, but we should not forget that,
there is also the human dimension. Imagine when electricity
reaches this Gansu village, which is what China has been
doing, bringing electricity to every village, not only are
the farmers able to drill deeper for water, but also their
children would be able to watch TV for the first time and
see the wonderful outside world. They of course will dream
about a better life and all the things that come with it.
Who are we to tell them, that they have no right to have
what we have? Who are we to tell them that they can't live
like the people in Shanghai or London they see on TV? Why
can't they have ipods, laptops and refrigerators, or even
This is the human dimension, and this is the challenge.
China's difficult mission is to enable all of its 1.3
billion people to have the opportunity to realize their
dreams, but to achieve it in an environmentally responsible
Now let's come back to the point about China being the
world's biggest CO2 emitter. If you look at the figures in
per capita terms, an average Chinese person's emission is
4.6 tons. An average American emits 20 tons and Britain 8.7
tons. You can hardly call China energy greedy, can you?
Yet, according to an FT survey, 63% of Americans believe
that China is not doing enough and that it should undertake
more emission reduction. It feels like a person taking 4
pieces of bread asking the person who got the first piece
of bread to go on diet.
Between 1750 and 2005, developed countries accounted for
80% of the world's CO2 emissions. Even today, with only 20%
of the world's population, developed countries pump more
than 55% of the total emissions into the atmosphere. So
when it comes to emissions, developed and developing
countries can't be compared like for like, not to be
painted in the same brush. This is why we attach so much
importance to the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change, which set out the principle of common but
This is ultimately about fairness and equal right to
The Copenhagen conference will commence in 5 days' time. It
will be a major milestone in the global effort to tackle
climate change and the people of the world have high hopes
on its outcome. For Copenhagen to be successful, China
believes several things need to happen.
First, developed countries should undertake to achieve
substantial emission reduction targets for the second
commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Countries that
have not signed up to the Kyoto Protocol should formulate
similar reduction targets.
Second, effective mechanisms should be set up to ensure
that developed countries provide financial and
technological support to developing countries.
Third, developing country should also adopt mitigation
measures according to their national conditions, within the
framework of sustainable development and with financial and
technological support from the developed countries.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the conference.
China is willing to play a constructive role in bringing
the negotiations to a successful conclusion. We look
forward to close cooperation with the UK and the rest of
the world in this process.
All in all, climate change is a global challenge, which can
only be resolved through global cooperation. As a mother, I
do hope my daughter and the future generations will breathe
clean air and live in a good environment. So countries
should work together as partners to make sure that our
children inherit a better world.