On the Mark With China's Solar Power TargetChina has recently made a powerful statement in regards to its solar power use as China’s solar power target for 2020 has already been surpassed, according to research recently published by the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory.

With recent solar expenditures, China’s solar power target for 2020 has already been surpassed—the goal was 105 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. China now has 112 gigawatts of solar capacity, which bypasses any of the efforts of European countries to embrace solar power. Since the beginning of 2017, a whopping 35 gigawatts have been installed to meet China’s solar power target—more than twice as much as any other country had installed in 2016.

Part of China’s 112 gigawatts includes the largest solar farm and the largest floating solar farm in the world. This is part of a move by the Chinese government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as to reduce coal-fired air pollution in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which damages the air quality in these urban areas.

In response to China’s rapidly growing solar sector, some critics have urged European nations to step up their efforts to utilize the power of the sun. Since 2015, when China surpassed Germany as the world’s largest solar power market, the solar capacity of Germany has expanded to only 41.1 gigawatts.

The environmental implications of this are huge; however, solar energy could also play a key role in alleviating global poverty. Solar energy can be utilized to power the basic needs of those living in poverty in China—it is an effective way to offer power to those who may not have reliable access to electricity. Solar energy can pave the way to access to basic human necessities, such as lighting and drinking water.

Regardless, China still has much of its energy demand to account for. Only one percent of China’s energy demand will be able to be met by these 112 gigawatts of solar power, as coal remains the source for the majority of Chinese energy. China is still the world’s greatest carbon emitter, and this issue must be addressed. However, the remarkable nature of what China has accomplished should still be celebrated and replicated in the future.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

cars white background
It’s no secret that when it comes to climate change, China is considered the worst offender. Despite its status as the world’s largest carbon emitter, China has recently admitted that the country lacks the proper preparation or resources to truly tackle the climate change issue.

Intensified extreme weather and natural disasters have pummeled China for several decades resulting in thousands either becoming displaced or killed. Close to 2,000 individuals each year are victims of natural disasters such as typhoons and droughts. Some of the failings the nation has had with regard to mitigating the effects of these disasters have been an inability to prevent the destruction of necessary infrastructure such as power and water.

A salient factor that could be contributing to China’s inability to truly tackle its contribution to climate change is the fact it still relies on massive amounts of coal plants to fuel its economic development and manufacturing sector. Its unmistakable reliance on coal seems to be a large disincentive to create climate policy with teeth.

Another factor standing in the way of China creating aggressive climate change policy is its deeply held view that developed nations bear most of the responsibility for climate change and consequently must pay poorer nations on a yearly basis for having to deal with the problem. Reuters reports that poorer nations have demanded payment from developed nations amounting $30 billion eventually increasing to $100 billion by 2020.

The Warsaw conference, where the issue of climate change compensation has been raised, has seen no shortage of drama over the issue. Once developed nations such as the EU and US stated they will not engage in talks regarding compensation until after 2015, China and 132 developing nations walked out of the conference. Developed nations such as Australia were accused of not taking the talks seriously as exhibited by their wardrobe of t-shirts worn at the conference and eating snacks during the negotiations. China and other nations see this issue as a “red line.”

Although China’s admitted lack of resources to combat their emissions as well as the absence of caps on their emissions under the Kyoto protocol could lead outside observers to lose hope the country possesses any desire to truly tackle climate change. But there have been some successes on China’s part.

For example, The Guardian sheds light on the latest Climate Change Performance index which shows a slower growth of CO2 emissions and significant investment in renewable energy on China’s part. One of the main reasons China sees it necessary to increase its use of renewable energy is the presence of dangerous pollution within many of its urban centers. Luckily, policies aimed at reducing air pollution have been accompanied by a resulting decrease in CO2 emissions.

As the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions, China has a serious stake in the future of climate change mitigation. Whether or not its status as the largest carbon emitter places a significant responsibility on the country is up for debate. Only time will tell if China is able to truly initiate significant policies that address its contribution to global climate change.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Reuters UK, Reuters, The Guardian, The Guardian

Wood Architecture is Better than Steel
At the TED Conference 2013, architect Michael Green argues that wood architecture is better than steel and concrete when it comes to protecting the environment. Tall buildings are made of steel and concrete and the greenhouse gas emission of these materials is huge (three percent of the world’s energy goes into making steel, and 5 percent goes into making concrete). Green notes that most people think transportation is the main cause of CO2 emissions, but actually it is building — accounting for 47 percent of CO2 emissions.

Current building codes only allow wood buildings to be four stories high, and Green wants to change this. He proposes we use wood architecture and build skyscrapers out of wood. Trees store carbon dioxide, and by building with it, says Green, we could sequester the carbon. Building with one cubic meter of wood, he claims, stores one ton of CO2.

He is not proposing to build huge towers with small two-by-four pieces of wood. In his speech, he explains the technology that has been created to form rapid growth trees into massive lumber panels and the flexible system technology that assists in building with these huge pieces of wood.

An obvious question that people ask about his system is deforestation. To this, he insists there are sustainable forestry practices, and says that enough wood is grown in North America every 13 minutes for a 20-story building.

– Mary Purcell