Developed countries have to take quick actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while providing technical support to China and other developing countries in this area, a senior analyst with the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Ralph Sims, an expert on renewables and climate change, said that the Chinese government and people have attached great importance to climate change and are seeking to adopt a more sustainable development strategy to help deal with the problem.
He took China's renewable energy law as an example, saying that"it has really encouraged" the development of wind energy, solar voltaic energy and other forms of renewables, including modern biomass.
Sims made the remarks on the sidelines of an IEA conference on biofuel and bioenergy in Canada's University of British Columbia between Aug. 24 and 26.
While acknowledging that China is now producing more carbon dioxide than the United States, Sims stressed that China has many more people and its amount of carbon dioxide per capita is about the world average, at 5 tons per person per year.
Whereas in the United States, Australia and other developed countries, the amount of carbon dioxide is 16 to 20 tons per person. "So that is not a fair balance in the world," the expert asserted.
He believed China has "a very strong case" to talk with the United States, the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. He said the developed countries have produced greenhouse gas for over 150 years, cutting down forests and digging up coal and oil to have their growth and economy to get to where they are, while China's economic development is just starting and it's unfair to impose too much requirements on its efforts to reduce emission.
Sims, one of the recipients of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, urged developed countries to "take notice of that and reduce the emissions quickly and rapidly" by means of energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon dioxide capture and storage.
At the same time, he said, developed countries have to support China and other developing countries to "use modern technologies and leapfrog the old ways."
Sims suggested that the opportunities are there in China, as in other developing counties, to leapfrog "the ways the western countries have developed over the last 50, even 100 years."
He cited the findings of a recent IEA report: that in order to keep the temperature rises below a more acceptable two degrees centigrade, the biomass will need to be the greatest source of primary energy in the future.
In the transition to a low-carbon economy, there are various options for renewable energy, such as wind power, solar power and water power. But biomass is different, said Sims, adding that people can produce heat, electricity and liquid fuels and gas fuels for transport from woody biomass, agricultural residues or energy crops.
"They cover all of the energy uses, the end uses of energy we require. So that is one key reason why biomass has got this major role to play in the future," said Sims, who began his energy research career over three decades ago.
The expert warned that biofuels and biomass should be used properly and carefully. He said some biomass and biofuels are good in terms of climate change mitigation, but others are not so good.
If people cut down forests in order to make land available for more energy crops, then that is a bad form of biomass, "because the planet is worse off once we cut down these native forests," he noted.
Sims now still maintains the position of professor of sustainable energy at Massey University, New Zealand, and has just finished a report entitled Cities, Towns and Renewable Energy, in which he describes intelligent power grid as his hope for the future in addressing the challenge of climate change. And he hopes this is where China can really take a good lead in the world.