Evidence from China and Vietnam as Key Emerging Economies
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Hans Bruyninckx, Qi Ye, Nguyen Quang Thuan and David Belis
Chapter 4: Explaining the development of China’s renewable energy policies: comparing wind and solar power
Over the last decade, China’s role in global climate change governance has evolved significantly. On the one hand, China has emerged as the most important global actor in terms of energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2006, the country surpassed the United States (US) as the largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter in the world and in 2010, China’s average per capita emissions approached those of the European Union (EIA 2012). Due to a growing population, rising living standards and the typical Chinese growth model, based on heavy industry and the extensive use of coal, carbon-intensive energy demand has been escalating, especially since 2002. Despite China’s efforts to stimulate the development of a variety of energy sources such as nuclear, hydro, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power, China’s economic growth model and energy mix remain highly dependent on the use of coal and oil (Figure 4.1). Of all fossil fuels, coal releases the largest amount of CO2 into the atmosphere per unit of heat energy (IEA 1993). The large increase in energy demand and China’s stagnating energy mix are, therefore, the main reasons why the recent rise in carbon emissions is expected to continue (see Figure 4.2; Buijs 2009). The US Energy Information Administration estimates that China emitted more than 8000 million tonnes of CO2 as of 2010 (EIA 2012).
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