China Environment | Wilson Center

China Environment

Here Comes the Sun (and the Wind, Water, and Biogas): Opportunities and Challenges for U.S.-China Renewable Energy Collaboration

As the world's two largest economies, it is not surprising that the United States and China are the top two energy consumers and investors in clean energy development—although in 2009 China invested twice as much as the United States. Both countries have similarly strong motivation to promote renewable energy, namely diversifying energy portfolios, creating jobs, strengthening energy security, and reducing pollution.

Complex Connections: Ecological Impacts of Chinese Investment in Southeast Asia

As the world's factory, it should not be surprising that China has had to expand its search for raw resources well beyond its borders. Over the past few years China has become a major global investor into resource extraction industries—oil, gas, minerals, timber, and agricultural products. A major catalyst for this investment is China's Export-Import Bank lending, which reached $174.2 billion in 2009 alone, nearly four times what the World Bank lent in the same year.

Asia's Growing Crisis of Floods and Droughts

The Greater Himalayas, whose glaciers supply crucial seasonal water flows to some 40 percent of the world's population, are a climate change hot spot. The Tibetan Plateau has experienced a 1 degree Celsius temperature rise in the past decade alone and the 40,000+ glaciers in these mountains are in rapid retreat, posing grave environmental and human health threats. The prospect of catastrophic changes in normal season flows (sometimes too much, and at others times too little) from this Tibetan "water tower" is real.

Taking Stock of Carbon Emissions: Policies, Strategies, and Tools for the U.S. and China

Over the past year, the Chinese government has been aggressively promoting low carbon policies to help ensure China's energy security and lower the country's greenhouse gas emissions. At the Copenhagen climate meeting in December 2009, the Chinese leadership committed the country to ambitious CO2 emissions targets.

U.S.-China Partnership for Climate Action

The Obama-Hu energy agreements in November 2009 and the Copenhagen climate talks reinvigorated discussions on the need for the United States and China to collaborate on energy and climate issues, but translating that enthusiasm into concrete projects can be elusive.

Hidden Waters, Dragons in the Deep

In the southwest corner of China, a region of towering mountains, deep gorges, and scattered villages not far from the border of Vietnam is Shidong, the Rock Cave. It is here, 800 miles west of Hong Kong and the Pacific coast, in an area so remote that people typically settle in villages not larger than 300 residents, where the Yang Liu River disappears underground.

Environmental Activism in Taiwan

The world of Taiwanese environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is still relatively new and is constantly evolving. NGOs are still trying to find their proper relationship with the government, the people, and corporations. Since the late 1980s, Taiwanese green NGOs have led projects, protests, and watchdog activities that have had a major role in shaping pollution control and conservation policies. Unlike many of their mainland counterparts, Taiwanese environmental NGOs have frequently clashed openly with the government and industries.

Seeing Through the Smog: Promoting Sino-U.S. Cooperation on Air Quality, Environmental Health, and Climate Change

China's three decades as the world's fastest growing economy have brought it an unfortunate primacy in two other statistical categories: it is estimated to have the world's highest annual incidence of premature deaths triggered by air pollution and to be the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide. Despite slowing economic growth and some improvements in air quality levels and controls, the expected steep increases in China's consumption of energy over the next few decades have troubling implications for both local air quality and global climate change.

Coal City

In China coal is king. China relies on coal for upwards of 70 percent of its energy and it is the biggest consumer and producer of coal in the world. Even with China building a new coal-fired power plant every three days, power demand continues to outstrip supply. While coal fuels China as the world's factory, it also releases many pollutants into the air including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and mercury, resulting in a profound impact on human health and the environment. Domestically, between 400,000 and 750,000 premature deaths are attributed to Chinese air pollution every year.

Local-to-Local Energy Linkages: California and Alberta in China

Both the Canadian and U.S. governments have numerous bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding with China's central government on energy, but overall the actual cooperation has been much less than what might be promised on paper. To fill this void, some U.S. states and Canadian provinces, as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and research centers in both countries, are pursuing very effective forms of engagement with local-level Chinese counterparts on energy. However, such local-to-local partnerships are still in their infancy.