To understand China's environmental solutions, you have to think big

Dan Dudek

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited China this month to discuss how our two countries might continue to work together to combat climate change. This cooperation is an absolute necessity, as the two countries are the world’s top two emitters. You may be familiar with United States based efforts, but less so with the impressive work being done in China. While it’s easy to find news focusing on the very real environmental challenges facing China (such as air pollution or water scarcity in the north due to coal-fired plants), these are only half of the story. The meaningful impact of the solutions underway today is the other side, and one more people need to hear.

Change isn’t only possible, it’s happening on a significant scale.

Carbon trading programs help reduce emissions

With EDF’s help, China is laying the foundation for a national carbon market that would reward industries that reduce climate pollution. The Chinese government designated seven regions for pilot carbon trading programs to reduce carbon emissions in the country’s main economic and energy consumption areas, while informing plans to implement the program nationally.

I was honored to participate in the exciting launch of China’s first pilot carbon trading program in Shenzhen, the nation’s hub of economic innovation. EDF has supported the development of Shenzhen’s program and also helped broker an agreement between California and Shenzhen to collaborate on the design and implementation of carbon emissions trading systems.

The program in Shenzhen is set to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP in the city by a staggering 21% by the year 2015. Since that time three other pilots have launched, including the largest in Guangdong province on December 19. EDF is now responsible for a coordinated training program for all seven pilots in cooperation with the National Development and Reform Commission.

Carbon trading programs are reducing poverty

Poverty alleviation is China’s top priority. In partnership with the State Council’s Poverty Alleviation Office, we’ve created a low carbon farming pilot program which helps alleviate poverty and reduce carbon emissions by rewarding farmers who adopt climate-friendly practices that also improve agricultural efficiency.

Through pilot projects, already over 400,000 poor farmers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million verified metric tons, and earned additional income primarily by increasing crop yields and reducing input costs — all while improving local air and water quality.

That’s a remarkable accomplishment, but we’re on track to do even more: It’s our goal to reach out to additional two million farmers in low-carbon farming by the end of 2015.

Greening the supply chain in China is greening the global supply chain

EDF is partnering with companies in China to help their suppliers improve energy efficiency. We are also working with the Chinese government, the country’s largest purchaser, in designing a green public procurement guideline, to accelerate adoption of energy efficiency practices by awarding contracts only to factories adhering to green supply chain guidelines.

Our past experience shows this is one of the most effective ways to drive change in China. And since China supplies so much of the world’s manufactured goods, changes in the way they do business have far reaching impacts.

With our help, China’s largest domestic retailer saved 50% on the energy bills of a supermarket that switched to LED lighting; the results open the door to spreading energy efficiency to more of the company’s 6,000 outlets.

Training thousands in a new generation of environmental leaders

So far, over 19,000 Chinese environmental enforcement officials have graduated from our environmental enforcement training programs conducted in collaboration with elite Chinese universities. We plan to bring the number of EDF-trained officers within China’s 80,000 person enforcement force to over 25,000 by the end of 2015.

What’s next?

The Chinese government is laying out its new development plan for the next five years, and EDF has been invited to offer our recommendations. It is critical that their plan includes strong policies that reduce air and climate pollution, and as we’ve been doing for the last 20 years, we’ll continue to do everything in our power to help make it so. I sincerely hope you’ll support us to ensure this work can continue and expand.