Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Climate policy in China and the U.S.

Posted by Daniel Hall on February 5, 2009

China is in some ways the mirror image of the United States. Whereas in the United States the most serious efforts to date to address climate change have been made at the state and local levels and in the private sector, in China the major initiatives have come from the national-level party and government and have often been blunted by conflicting interests among local officials and enterprises.

That is Kenneth Lieberthal and David Sandalow in a new report from Brookings on the prospects for cooperation between China and the U.S. on climate change.  Here is an interesting tidbit on power generation in each country:

Coal remains king in China, and about 70% of power still comes from coal-fired plants. Over the past five years China has built the equivalent of America’s entire coal power generation system. These plants will stay on line for another 30-50 years while 60% of U.S. coal-fired power plants will be over 50 years old by 2025.

Here are the key recommendations from the executive summary.  The full report is worth reading — it is a very short and accessible 80 pages.  (It is much closer to an article from Foreign Affairs than a journal article, and yes that is a compliment.)  One of the themes running through the report is that it would be helpful to reframe the U.S.-China conversation around “clean energy” rather than “climate change.”

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