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Beijing Review:Sustainable In Seattle

Time:2014-09-15 09:48:15    Views:1536234    Origin:Beijing Review

Beijing Review:Sustainable In Seattle

GREEN TEAM: At the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Seattle Conference on September 5, Zhou Wenzhong (left), Secretary General of the BFA, and Yasuo Fukuda, Chairman of the BFA, show a pair of Seattle Seahawks men's polo shirts, the gifts they received from Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State (XU XUN)

Thirty-five years ago, on a chilly day in April, a small cargo ship with a five-star red flag flapping from its stern tied up to Pier 91 in Seattle, the United States.

The 637-foot Liulinhai was the first ship from the People's Republic of China to dock at a North American port since 1949. A few days later, the empty ship took on a load of corn valued at about $5 million and then sailed back home.

The Pacific-crossing maiden voyage of Liulinhai, owned by the China Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO), marked the restoration of Sino-U.S. maritime transportation. Today, China has become the largest export destination of Washington State. China-bound merchandise accounted for $11.6 billion—about 15 percent—of Washington State exports last year. The state is also one of America's top exporters of food and agricultural products, sending two thirds of its produce to Asian countries.

"We are very proud of our close economic ties to Asia in the past several decades," said Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Seattle Conference on September 5.

Carrying the theme of Energy, Resources and Sustainable Development, the first-ever North American meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia was held from September 4-6. It brought together more than 300 business executives, policymakers and experts from around the Pacific Rim to explore solutions to global challenges related to climate change, energy, urbanization and health, and the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region in creating solutions.

Washington State boasts a great number of ventures and endeavors on clean and renewable energy, advocates and practices an eco-friendly lifestyle, leads R&D and innovations in sustainable technologies and is a frontrunner in sustainable development, said Zhou Wenzhong, Secretary General of the BFA, at the opening ceremony. "There is no better setting for us to talk about sustainable development and a fresh outlook on energy and resources."

Ready for energy revolution

As global demand for energy continues to increase, environmental advocates and experts have been emphasizing the need for governments to mandate or incentivize more extensive use of the many alternative energy sources that already exist.

In 2013, renewable power cut a much larger slice of the world energy demand pie, but coal, which remained the fastest growing fossil fuel, and oil, also saw their demand grow, according to BP's annual statistical review of world energy—an industry benchmark—released in June.

China has been exploring and developing new sources of energy beyond coal and petroleum including natural gas, renewable energy such as solar, wind and nuclear power, said Zhang Guobao, Chairman of China's Advisory Committee of the National Energy Committee, in a session titled Sustainability of Conventional Energy and the Shale Gas Revolution.

In 2013, China experienced explosive growth in renewable energy production, with wind and solar power increasing 35.3 percent and 122 percent respectively, though nearly two thirds of China's energy consumption is currently powered by coal.

According to The Global Status Report, released in June by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, China led the rest of the world in renewable energy investment in 2013, spending a total of $56.3 billion on wind, solar and other renewable projects. The report stated that China accounted for 61 percent of the total investment in renewables by developing countries, and that China invested more in renewable energy than all of Europe last year.

"The matter of how to improve the efficiency of energy usage and adjust energy structure remains a big challenge for China," Zhang said. The former head of China's National Energy Administration argued that the government should respect private R&D and innovation potential in the face of the inevitable forthcoming energy revolution.

Julio Friedmann, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal, Office of Fossil Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), stressed that the key of the shale gas revolution's success in the United States is entrepreneurship and the business model, in a sense echoing Zhang's sentiments.

"There are 3,000 companies involved in shale gas exploration. These are not Chevron or Exxon, but small and medium-sized companies that are innovative and enterprising," he said.

Friedmann maintained that the shale gas revolution makes LNG [liquefied natural gas] exports from the United States possible and opens space for China-U.S. cooperation in clean energy.

Xue Feng, General Manager of CEFC Shanghai Natural Gas Co. Ltd., expressed his concerns regarding the substantial energy cooperation between Asia and the United States.

"Asia is the fastest growing region in the global economy, which means it is also experiencing the world's fastest growth in energy demand," Xue said. He appealed to American local governments and businesses to push the U.S. Federal Government to relax current policy restrictions on exports of oil and gas, especially natural gas, in order to take the initiative in opening up the Asian gas market. "If not, Asia may turn to other regions in seeking out natural gas resources," he told Beijing Review.

Sumant Sinha, founding Chairman and CEO of ReNew Power Ventures, was optimistic about the development of renewable energy usage in India. He said the new Indian government is at present modifying laws to support the deve-lopment of clean energy, and pointed out that India has advantages in promoting clean and renewable energy.

"The opportunity cost of construction is still low in India, which is very propitious to the conduction of renewable or clean energy bases," he said.

Get smart

In the summer of 1981, David Sandalow made his first visit to Shanghai. There was no light at night as he flew upon the city, and his team was only able to find one solitary telephone line inside the city to connect back to the United States.

"Today, Shanghai is like 'Time Square times six'," he said. The former Under Secretary of the DOE conceded that great improvements had arisen from urbanization in major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, but he pointed out that the rapid urban development has also created serious problems relating to air pollution in the cities.

According to research from the McKinsey Global Institute, China and India are in the vanguard of a wave of urban expansion. By 2025, nearly 2.5 billion Asians will live in cities, accounting for almost 54 percent of the world's urban population. India and China alone will account for more than 62 percent of Asian urban population growth and 40 percent of global urban population growth from 2005 to 2025.

China is establishing green and environmentally friendly cities through the utilization of diverse means such as water and garbage recycling and public transportation, said Qiu Baoxing, former Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. "At the same time, we want to maintain a certain level of population density for big cites, for example, 10,000 people to 1 square km [about 250 acres] to diminish the negative impact on the environment during the process of urbanization."

At a session titled Intelligent Cities and Sustainable Urban Living, Qiu said that an intelligent city is only a tool to reach the target of sustainable cities. "To achieve this target, there are three bottom lines: to develop a compact city; to maintain the diversity of cities form cultural, spatial and industrial perspectives; and to build cities that are livable for citizens."

Sean Chiao, CEO of Buildings + Place AECOM, argued that in order to achieve comprehensively developed and clean intelligent cities, the fundamental principle should circle back to the initial goals, touching on such issues as whether the city is pedestrian and cyclist friendly, or if it includes enough parks and open spaces, while keeping the ultimate goal of improving people's happiness index and the well-being of our future generations in mind.

"Getting growth right is so important if we want to create a sustainable future for ourselves," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in his address at the opening ceremony, adding that growth without parks or a place to exercise will not lead to sustainable communities.

Murray announced that Seattle has been recognized as one of the most sustainable cities in 2014 in North America. And having been ranked one of the smartest cities on the continent in 2013 by Fast Company magazine, "Seattle has mandated a minimum LEED [Green Building Leadership] Silver Certificate for all municipal buildings over 5,000 square feet since 2002. A high rate of solid waste recycling as well as strong environmental governance show that the city is acting on its responsibility to future generations," Boyd Cohen, a climate strategist, wrote in an article on the magazine website.

"We hope to learn from other countries and to avoid making the same mistakes during the process of building cities with greater sustainability," Qiu said.

Zhou Wenzhong, Secretary General of the BFA, called for international cooperation in energy production and the sharing of information pertaining to new technologies. "Reducing carbon and lifting living standards are things we all need. To keep them in balance, we need to develop a comprehensive package of measures and to encourage transnational cooperation," he said in his closing remarks at the conference.

(Reporting from Seattle, the United States)