Europe – tell China to cut their GHGs ok?

Yesterday the Globe and Mail reported that Stephen Harper will be meeting with European leaders both in large meetings and privately to convince them to pressure China and India to “level the playing field” of development and climate change.

1. Doesn’t understand the bredth of policy development going on in China right now – is this reflecting on the work of the Canadian embassy in China?  Why can’t he be better informed…unless he’s doing this solely for political reasons.

2.  China and Canada actually have a lot in common, especially dirty energy (especially in Alberta).  China does use a higher proportion of coal to power its electricity economy but…

Anyway, both are interested in Carbon Capture and Storage technology.  Alberta has a long-term plan to develop this – at the same time, Alberta has a huge labour shortage.  China also has long-term interests in developing CCS.  Working together would certainly benefit both parties in so many different ways.  So, why doesn’t Canada invite Chinese companies to come to Alberta, with Chinese labourers, to build massive tracts of the Albertan CCS system?

There are certain benefits and drawbacks to this:

1. Political image in Canada: Chinese are taking our jobs – there is already a huge job shortage.  Chinese workers would be coming to fill surplus demand (how to allow people to see this).

2. Chinese stealing technology:  China has been “promised” capital and technology transfer in the Kyoto process to help them leapfrog old, dirty technologies.  What better way to fulfill that promise, and in the meantime, allow China experience in building technology that could eventually directly reduce their GHG emissions?

3.  Speed of implementation in Alberta:  If Alberta were to use Chinese labour to do this work, it would be done faster and cheaper.  There’s no question about that.  And the quality would be as good.  I know there are lots of political issues surrounding this.  But if our interest is actually in reducing GHG emissions, why would we so vehmently discount this possibility?

Well, it’s just an idea for now.  And what’s wrong with an idea? 🙂


Earthquake shakes spirits

From the window of my Beijing office, everything seems normal.  Traffic is jammed on the ring road near my building, humidity and pollution are mixing to block out the clean blue sky of the morning, everyone is keeping their noses to the grindstone.

Two days ago, the entire country was shaken by an earthquake that originated several kilometres under  Wenchuan county, Sichuan province – over 1500km southwest from Beijing.  Yet even here, around 2:30 in the afternoon, everyone in Beijing office buildings first wondered why felt like their heads were spinning, then realized that their entire buildings were swaying.

It took about half an hour to understand the scope of the event from a trickle of messages on mobile phones as we stood in parking lots scattered around Beijing, waiting for someone to say that it was safe to go back to our offices (of course, this information couldn’t be forthcoming).

I get the feeling now that it wasn’t just the buildings that had shaken across China with this earthquake, though – it feels like the national psyche has also taken a bit of a hit.

It’s the word on the street: 2008, the olympic year, isn’t turning out to be that great for China.  At first, it was my colleagues and friends listing the tragedies: Hand, foot and mouth disease, train collisions, the torch relay protests, Tibet protests, and now this earthquake.  Then I even started to see it in the news.

The casualty list is climbing in this tragedy.  Response has been hampered by bad weather in Sichuan (immediately following the earthquake, heavy rains prevented flying over the region), extreme mountainous topography, a collaposed transportation network and any other bad luck you can imagine.  The army has been reported to be lacking in equipment that can help fish people out of the collapsed buildings.

We have also seen an unprecedented opening of hearts and wallets in support of the people who have suffered the worst of the earthquake.  Reports indicate that hundreds of millions of RMB have already been received by the Chinese Red Cross Society and other responsible organizations.  Significant donations have also been received from Hong Kong and Taiwan companies and individuals.  “Donation” is a word on the minds of every person in China, it seems.  I expect that support from overseas – and in particular, overseas Chinese - will not be small.

I have started thinking.  It has been an unlucky year so far for China.  But one thing that all these events have accomplished is a “gelling” of Chinese people both in China and around the world.  I think that people who long emigrated from China to the West are starting to get a feeling for what China has become again, and a feeling for being Chinese again.  I suspect that this will have enormous implications in the years to come as all people of Chinese ethnicity find a new identity – particularly in countries that have relied on immigration such as Canada, the US, Australia and others Southeast Asia.

As we watch this tragedy unfold in Sichuan province, and wish the survivors an orderly recovery, let’s start to consider long-term implications of the increasing national feelings that Chinese people everywhere seem to be demonstrating.

Imperial Oil Defends Oil Sands Development

Well, it’s offical.  Oil sands are going to save the planet, bringing much
needed prosperity to all.

The Calgary Herald reported today that Imperial Oil (whose parent company, Exxon, is one of the biggest corporate “climate change disblievers” out there) has demonstrated how good and selfless they are in developing the oil sands – for the sake of all the poor people in all the undeveloped countries out there.

Imperial’s new chief executive, Bruce March, described the oilsands as a vital global energy source in a world where billions of people live with poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water and inadequate or no electricity.

Call me naive.  Call me crazy.  But there are a few things that disturb me about this – and in my rage, I might not get this in quite the right order, so forgive me.

  1. Oil sands contribute a large percentage of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions – maybe around 20% between 1990 and 2005.
  2. Canada, according to recent government reports (I’ve got to cite a Reuters report for the time being stating that although Canada’s population makes up only 0.5% of the world’s total, it pumps out 2% of the worlds GHG emissions.
  3. GHG emissions are putting poor starvign people in “undeveloped countries” under water, under sand (desertified) or under hurricanes/typhoons and other extreme weather conditions.  Pushing ahead with super-carbon intensive petroleum development like oilsands using current technology isn’t going to help them one iota.
  4. Oil sands exports go to fuel US and Canada-based SUVs.  They don’t go to fuel poor starving people in ‘undeveloped countries.’  Please.  I know plans have been rekindled for Enbridge’s gateway pipeline, but there still nothing on the ground there.

I think Imperial’s got to take a good look in the mirror if they think they are doing the world a big huge favour by using present technology to develop oil sands.  Nobody – especially the poorest people in the world – needs more GHG emissions than are absolutely necessary.  And Alberta’s oil sands have time after time been proven to be a huge source of such gasses.

Let’s push Imperial, and all the other oil sands developers – to use the most cutting edge technology to reduce GHG and other emissions (including tailings). Let’s push the Alberta government to resist approving new development until new technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage are developed and commericalized.  The world doesn’t have time to be grandfathering carbon-intense technology just because the price of oil is high today.


Basic Information – Who am I?

Today I began at my new post as Clean Fuels Program Manager at Beijing-based Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET). iCET began with a fuel efficiency labelling project for vehicles in China, and has since expanded into clean fuel standard development for China (the program I am now managing), consumption-based national carbon inventories and environmental health related to climate change.

And I’m going to have to leave it there for now. There’s never enough time, is there.

[I have deleted the Chinese language part of this post in order to try getting unblocked in China]

Basic Idea

The reason I’ve decided to start this blog is that over the past few years in Beijing, I’ve had a good chance to understand some of the major international influences here. I’ve felt a powerful American presence, as well as a consistent British and German presence. Japan, South Korea and Russia also have a nicely visible presence in China that expats here are a big part of.

Yet I am continually surprised by the seeming lack of Canadian presence here. Maybe it’s that I’m looking in the wrong places. I did meet a few Canadians during my time studying at the Beijing International Studies University (北京第二外国语学院). And from time to time, I bump into Canadians at conferences, perhaps hoping to peddle CSR services or some Green technology.

I know there are Canadian businesses here. And I know the Canadian embassy is here. I know they must be doing something, so this blog is a chance for me to find out exactly what it is. I plan to use the environment and energy – particularly green energy as a path to follow to find out what Canadians are doing here, so I hope that most of what I write will be related to that, even if I digress from time to time.

Anyway, I look forward to investigating more about my country in China and learning about their energy and environment policy relationships. I look forward to using this information to benefit both sides if I have such an opportunity. And I look forward to talking with new people who might happen upon my blog to figure out exactly what all this means.