This post is co-authored with Dr. Yang Fuqiang, Senior Advisor on Climate and Energy at NRDC, Beijing.

In less than two weeks, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will join as many as 135 heads of state and 50,000 participants at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. The first historic Earth Summit in 1992 was a turning point in China’s environmental awareness, catapulting sustainable development to a national priority. Now, as the twentieth year reunion nears, we need to capture this unique opportunity to make progress on a variety of issues, in particular climate change. Premier Wen should look past the contentious fight over the ballooning outcome document and focus on what matters most: action.

Rio+20 is set to be one of the “largest and most important conferences in the history of the United Nations”, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. NRDC has been calling for over a year now that concrete actions and commitments should be the main outcome of this conference. A lengthy document without action does little to help move forward on important priorities for China and the rest of the world. We need to speed up deployment of renewable energy; make good on promises to phase down fossil fuel subsidies; mobilize investments in off-grid renewable energy; and much more.

Rio+20, taking place one year into China’s most progressive five-year plan to date, can serve to highlight the continuing obstacles to sustainable development and showcase and scale up successful efforts. This is also an opportunity to enshrine internationally China’s 2015 targets for energy intensity, carbon intensity and other environmental indicators. Earlier this week the State Council released China’s National Report on Sustainable Development which provides some clues on the past twenty years. Now, looking forward, China should turn its attention to ensuring implementation of its own commitments. NRDC thinks these should start with:

  • Establish renewable energy quotas for grid companies and local governments
An essential element to ensure the sustainable growth of China’s use of renewable energy sources is the establishment of renewable energy quotas for grid companies and local governments.

  • Improve integration of renewable energy onto the grid
China should improve planning for renewable integration, establish appropriate grid connection standards for wind and solar, and develop energy storage and natural gas peaking plants in order to improve integration of renewable energy sources.
  • Improve financing mechanisms and policies for urban, distributed renewable energy deployment
In addition to promoting utility-scale applications, China should redouble efforts to develop distributed, rooftop solar PV in Chinese cities by setting appropriate incentives policies and encouraging the use of innovative financing models.
  • Improve measurement and verification of grid companies’ energy savings targets
In order to successfully enforce the new national demand-side management regulations (DSM), China should put in place transparent and effective measurement and verification mechanisms.
  • Phase out highly polluting diesel fuels in cars and trucks
China’s diesel problem can be tackled as it has been in other countries, by first focusing on production of cleaner-burning diesel fuels. By implementing standards and incentives to reduce sulfur in diesel fuel, China can reduce the environmental and health impact of its growing numbers of diesel vehicles.

>> Read more details here.

The future we want – to improve our global social and environmental well-being – rests in the balance as countries scramble with last-minute preparations for the summit. From China, over twenty private companies and several non-governmental organizations are gearing up to make commitments for the global gathering, showing action from the ground up. Similarly, across the world, we have been documenting new initiatives for the summit.

Premier Wen and other leaders will be in the spotlight in Rio to set a far-reaching agenda that is both tangible and transformative. He can lead a renewed charge on implementation by reaffirming China’s domestic goals and to advance efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy with concrete steps like these.

Image credits: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Wen_Jiabao_%28Cropped%29.jpg


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