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Standing together: A new era of IEA-China co-operation

By Dr.Fatih Birol


By almost any measure, China is the most important player in the global energy market. China enjoys that position thanks to an impressive set of achievements. And yet China also faces significant energy challenges in the coming years. China already lies very much at the centre of nearly every work stream in the IEA, and cooperation between China and the IEA stretches back nearly 20 years.

But I believe we must and can deepen this partnership. Why? It’s very simple: if China and the IEA work closely together, everybody benefits. The IEA can serve as an invaluable resource to China as it pursues the goals of greater energy security, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. In return, the IEA and its members can learn much from China’s rich experiences.

China can rightly claim to have successfully brought electricity to more people than any other country in the world – and to around half a billion people in a short period of time

China is also helping improve energy access beyond its own borders, with supportive investments in energy projects in Africa and other regions.

China is the world’s largest wind power market and the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity. China is also adding more solar PV capacity each year than any other country. By the end of this year it will overtake Germany as the country with the most installed solar PV panels in the world.

No discussion of low-carbon energy would be complete without a mention of nuclear, and China has huge ambitions for its nuclear sector. Right now, of the 67 reactors being built globally, more than one-third are here in China

But another story that is less well-known is China’s expansion of hydropower and its impacts. According to IEA analysis, in fact, the emissions avoided in China over the last 10 years thanks to its increase in hydropower capacity alone are greater than all the emissions avoided in the United States as a result of the switch from coal to natural gas during the same time.
We also recognise and applaud the steps taken by China, not only to lower its reliance on coal, but also to improve the efficiency of its coal use. Again, according to IEA analysis, thanks to tighter domestic regulation, the efficiency of the coal-fired power fleet in China is now higher than that of the OECD average. Another very impressive achievement.

But there is still a long way to go, in China as elsewhere, before we are on a pathway towards a more sustainable energy future. We have shown that – even though China has pledged to achieve a peak in its carbon dioxide emissions around 2030, if not earlier – the world as a whole is not on track to replicate this achievement, with global emissions still projected to be on an increasing trend by that date. We need to do more than weaken the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions: we need to harness technology and policy in a united effort to break this link completely.
In this area, China is one of the leaders of global efforts.

This country has created significant, positive political momentum ahead of the climate negotiations in Paris later this year. As I wrote in the People’s Daily newspaper back in July, China’s constructive leadership deserves applause.…

But China still has many important policy challenges ahead, on which the IEA Secretariat and IEA member countries have valuable experience to share. For example, one such area is air pollution as a result of coal combustion, vehicle exhaust, industrial operations and construction, which is now a serious problem affecting many Chinese cities. IEA members have faced similar problems in the past, and so we have an opportunity to draw on these experiences and find solutions together. There are also questions of efficient market operation and design, as well as deployment of low carbon technologies and designing energy efficiency policies….

In some fields, such as ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission, China is leading and IEA members can benefit. In others, the experience of IEA members could provide insights for China. We also have a strong convergence of interest in the core area of energy security…

In short, we must make room for China under the IEA umbrella in order to safeguard and extend the benefits of collective energy security. We are also prepared to work to support China’s constructive perspective in leading global energy discussions.

During its G20 presidency next year, China will be in a position to propose an ambitious energy agenda. Improving energy efficiency, renewable energy, global energy governance and energy access – in addition to other energy topics to be agreed by the G20 – are among the issues that the world will benefit from during China’s G20 presidency…

And so I repeat my call for the start of a new era: If China and the IEA can work together, China benefits. If China and the IEA can work together, the IEA benefits. If China and the IEA can work together, the world benefits. This is my appeal to you today. Let’s start a new era. Let’s work together. Together – and very closely.

Thank you very much. Xièxiè.

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