International Development | Wilson Center

International Development

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.

Urban Life in China's Brave New World

At a seminar organized by the Comparative Urban Studies Project, the China Environment Forum and the Asia Program on January 3, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a U.C. Irvine China specialist and urban historian, drew on material from his book China's Brave New World – And Other Tales for Global Times (Indiana University Press, 2007) to reflect on the dramatic way that Chinese cities have changed over the past two decades. Dr. Wasserstrom gave an overview of the book, highlighting the second chapter, "All the Coffee in China" which delves into themes missing from prevailing narratives on China.

China Grapples with Its Energy Challenges

China's economic expansion is delivering impressive benefits at home and around the world, even as it sharpens and multiplies energy-related challenges. While China relies mainly on domestically mined coal, it has become a major presence on world energy markets, attracting unaccustomed attention. Domestic environmental damages are mounting, exacerbating inequalities among regions and economic groups, and progress in bringing down energy efficiency has slowed, spurring vigorous new efforts to raise efficiency.

China's Green Olympics: A Lasting Impact?

When Beijing made its bid for the 2008 Olympics, its air quality was vying with Mexico City as the most polluted capital in the world. Beijing ultimately won the bid over Toronto and Paris due to the extensive plans to make the 2008 Olympic Games green.

Promoting a Green Voice in China: New Initiatives for Environmental Public Participation

Chinese citizens are increasingly taking to the streets to protest existing or potential environmental threats—such as toxic water, smoggy air, excessive noise, and dam building. China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) reported that 51,000 environmental disputes—some peaceful and some violent—occurred in 2005. The numbers of such disputes are most likely growing in number and size, strikingly illustrated by the nearly 20,000 urbanites who protested on June 1, 2007 in Xiamen (Fujian) against a planned chemical factory in the city's suburbs.

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