China and the European Union (EU) could lead the world in low-carbon technologies by combining their efforts on climate change, according to a new report.
Released by the UK think-tank Chatham House, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Energy Research Institute in Beijing, and other partners on 28 February in Beijing, the Interdependencies on Energy and Climate Security for China and Europe report outlines common challenges faced by China and the EU in coping with the impacts of climate change.
In order to meet its fast growing energy demands, China will need to add power generation capacity of 1260 GW by 2030. Meanwhile, EU will also have to build 862 GW of new capacity to replace outdated facilities. That means a big increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
But, according to the report, if the two players work together on clean technologies, they can create unprecedented opportunities for global low-carbon transformation.
China's energy demands and low-cost manufacturing can offer a vast market for clean technologies initiated by EU companies. One such area is clean coal, representing technologies that allow coal-based electricity generation to have much higher energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions, such as carbon capture and storage.
Both China and EU will continue to rely heavily on coal for their energy supply in the near future, says Antony Froggatt, a research fellow at Chatham House and author of the section on coal within the interdependence report.
More generally, the report says that EU companies could lower production costs by shifting some aspects of their clean technology development to China.
It also suggests that the EU could build 'low-carbon economic zones' in China, and 'deliver an agreed set of benchmarks and practices for improving efficiency and establish an EU-China ultra-efficiency building research platform.'
Pan Jiahua of CASS, a senior advisor to the Chinese government on climate policy, welcomes the report, saying that low-carbon economic zones and joint research and development (R&D) can help solve the high-cost problems faced by developing nations in the transfer of climate-friendly technologies.
Jiang Kejun of the Energy Research Institute in Beijing, an author of part of the Chatham House report, points out that intellectual property right (IPR) issue poses a barrier to technology transfer from EU to China.
'It is unrealistic to expect EU automobile companies to endow their technologies without reasonable charges,' Jiang told Chemistry World. 'But joint R&D between China and EU, both on public and commercial levels, towards the next generation of electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles can help the two sides overcome the IPR challenge from the beginning.'
Pan adds that for the chemical industry, cooperation between EU and China can create significant business opportunities. The industry could benefit both from its own energy efficiency improvements, he says, and by supplying the products used to improve other sectors' energy efficiency - such as the catalysts and membranes used in clean coal technology.
Hepeng Jia and Weixiao Chen