International Development | Wilson Center

International Development

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.

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.

Asia's Next Challenge: Securing the Region's Water Future

The global demand for fresh water is soaring as supply becomes more uncertain. Water-related problems are particularly acute in Asia – the world's most populous continent. As population growth and urbanization rates in Asia continue to rise, stress on the region's water resources will intensify. Climate change is expected to worsen the situation.

Temperatures Rising: Climate Change, Water, and the Himalayas

The Himalayas in the Tibetan Plateau and Karakoram North Pakistan, whose glaciers supply water to some 40 percent of the world's population, are a climate change hotspot. The Tibetan Plateau has experienced a 1 degree Celsius temperature rise in the past decade alone. The 40,000+ glaciers in China's Himalayas are in rapid retreat, posing grave environmental and human health threats and the prospect of catastrophic water shortages.

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.

Cement and Climate Change in China

China is the world's largest producer of cement. Its production has grown about 10 percent per year over the past two decades and is now growing even faster to keep up with massive urbanization. Today China produces roughly half of the total global output of cement, whereas the next three largest producers—India, Japan, and the United States—combined produce less than 20 percent. By nature, cement production is an energy-intensive process.

Book Launch: The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

With the recent scandals involving tainted food and toys from China, and mounting concern over the ever-growing pollution produced by Chinese industry, it is clear that what happens in China does not stay in China: It has a tangible, and at times devastating, global effect. With The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage, veteran foreign correspondent Alexandra Harney has written an exposé of how China's factory economy competes for Western business by—in her words—selling out its workers, its environment, and its future.

Efforts in Moving Towards a Low Carbon Future: China's Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Laws

Coal outputs surge in China in the month of February in the wake of a major winter storm that resulted in the loss of power supply to 17 provinces and cities, and a gap between supply and demand of electricity of 40 million kilowatts at peak time. The storms refocused global attention on China's dirty power sector, with the World Bank and OECD reporting 750,000 deaths from pollution induced respiratory diseases and cancer rates rising across the country.

Restocking China's Environmental Tool Kit

Over the past 27 years China has built up an ambitious array of environmental protection laws and regulation. Pollution control laws have included command and control approaches and have recently committed to the use of market mechanisms, increased public participation and greater transparency of information, and stronger penalties for pollution violations. In the area of energy and air pollution, China has passed some highly progressive laws and standards on energy efficiency, renewables, and vehicle emissions.

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