Tag Archives: Copenhagen

The Renewable Energy Rivalry

There’s been a great deal of concern expressed over the past couple of months about the rising influence of China. President Barack Obama’s decision to meet with the Dalai Lama in February, China’s repeated rumblings over the valuation of China’s currency, the rumbai, China’s subtle threats to slow down their purchasing of U.S. Treasury securities, and tensions over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have all served to increase tensions between the two powers.

But here’s one you might have missed. According to the Guardian’s Datablog, Chinese investment in renewable energies in 2009 was almost twice that of the United States. Chinese investment totaled more than U.S. $34.6 billion, compared to $18.6 billion in the United States. The United States still out produces China, but just barely, 53.4 gigawatt capacity in the U.S., 52.5 gigawatts in China. It appears the Chinese government is serious about its 20 percent by 2020 target, which it set last year.

The dramatic expansion of Chinese investments in renewable energies is particularly interesting given the inability of the United States and China to reach a common agreement at the climate change talks in Copenhagen earlier this year.

The Pew Report from which the data comes makes for some interesting analysis. Among those things which you might not have guessed:

  • Investment in renewable energies in the United States fell by 40 percent in 2009.
  • Globally, more than $162 billion was invested in clean energy production in 2009.
  • The G-20 countries collectively account for more than 90 percent of global investment in renewable energy.

The Challenge of Climate Change

With the Copenhagen Conference scheduled to begin Monday, climate change is squarely on the international political scene. But while lots of people are talking about it—and despite claims of the United Nations’ top climate official—few are optimistic that any real progress will be made in Copenhagen. Alex Evans at Global Dashboard has gone so far as to outline the ways in which Copenhagen might fail, classifying the failures as: Bali #2, the Bad Deal, the Car Crash, the Multilateral Zombie, and Death By Diplomacy. The likelihood of a good deal is remote. In a post to Project Syndicate, former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev is already encouraging the international community to think about how to move forward from Copenhagen, describing the current political standoff (and the failure to agree on a new climate change convention to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012) as a game of Russian roulette.

The timing of Copenhagen is clearly less than ideal, following shortly on the heels of the embarrassing publication of emails suggesting climate scientists were manipulating charts to make them look more dramatic before publication (critics have termed this “Climategate.”) The release, while hardly rising to the level of scandal that it has been afforded, nevertheless offered climate skeptics ammunition with which to engage an uniformed public. (The issue even reached Jon Stewart’s Daily Show last week). And this is too bad, because climate change is clearly a major concern for international politics. From the emerging tensions between the United States and Canada over who controls the emerging Arctic sea lanes to the concerns over the impact of climate change on conflict in Africa, climate change is likely to be a (perhaps the) major driver of global politics in the near future. And while the international community debates who should bear the cost of addressing the challenge of climate change mitigation, the costs of not addressing climate change continue to mount.