Thursday, 6 August 2009

Op-ed China Daily: Smart cities needed to save our planet 外籍专家:希望中国成为发展低碳城市的坚强践行者

This is my op-ed article about cities in today's China Daily. [Updated 090824 with link to a Chinese version, also pasted in below the English version]. The role of cities will be key in the coming years. I hope that the negotiations in Copenhagen and the implementation of the stimulus packages (China is very interesting with respect to low carbon stimulus) will focus more on concrete action where cities - and companies - that see opportunities with a low carbon development are supported.

Dongmei Chen from WWF China has been a great inspiration for the ideas - and concrete work - with Low Carbon Cities in China. She is a real low carbon hero. I look forward to work more intensively with her, and other "low carbon city leaders" all around the world. Interesting things are in the pipeline...

Smart cities needed to save our planet
By Dennis Pamlin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-06 07:48

So far most of the focus in the climate discussions has been on big polluting industries. The reason for that is we have approached climate change as a problem. This perspective is leading us toward trade conflicts with entities with unsustainable consumption levels and blaming those with high greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting industries. This could be avoided if we shift to a solution perspective and focus on the opportunities for cities.

Last year was the first time in human history when more than half of the world's population was living in urban, not rural, areas. This trend will continue and in 40 years 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities. China will lead this development in many ways, with 70 percent of its population living in cities in about 30 years.

Cities are the main destination for investments and centers of innovations. And whether we will destroy or save the planet depends on toward where those investments and innovations are directed: high- or low- carbon development.

To turn cities into solution providers we must move beyond the simplified perspective that have dominated the climate change debate so far, especially in the West. The focus on problems has resulted in a situation where almost all of the work is invested in house-keeping measures to reduce direct GHG emissions in cities. This is not unimportant; it is just one part of a much bigger picture.

A strategy to support low-carbon city development must include at least four factors. We need cities that can do all things well, but right now we also need cities that focus on one of the factors and become world leaders in it.

The most obvious area, and where almost all focus is today, is direct emissions from cities. Cleaning your house is always a good thing. Cities should develop strategies to reduce direct emissions from buildings and transport and all other significant sources. What is important is setting targets and formulating strategies that actually reduce GHG emissions and not just move them to another place.

Ensuring continued focus on energy efficiency and new smart system solutions instead of only looking at decreased use of coal and oil is important. Projects like Shanghai's initiative of building smart buildings is very interesting and would help create a low-carbon 21st century infrastructure based on broadband communications instead of roads and airports.

The second area that must be addressed to ensure that GHG emission problems are not just moved from one place to another is "embedded emissions".

Embedded emissions are those that have been released in order to produce something. If a city is moving a steel plant because it emits huge volumes of carbon but keeps on using as much steel as before then the problem has not been solved; it has only been moved.

Many cities in the rich world that talk about low-carbon development ignore the goods with significant amounts of embedded carbon they import. Research shows emissions a country like Sweden is responsible for would be double if its imports are included. The reason is that Sweden, like other Western countries, exports less-carbon intensive goods than it imports.

The Chinese government has issued regulations to discourage export of energy intensive products and support a low-carbon lifestyle, offering a unique opportunity for its cities to review their imports and exports from a climate perspective.

A very important but still not very well known climate aspect in cities is export of low-carbon solutions. A city is an active part of the global economy, and since there is an urgent need for low-carbon solutions it must support companies that export them.

An export perspective allows cities to focus on companies providing low-carbon solutions and how promoting a low-carbon development can create jobs. Obviously there is a link between direct GHG emissions and the export of low-carbon solutions. If a market is created for new smart solutions in a city, the companies that provide them can first grow in the domestic market and then become important exporters of low-carbon solutions.

If cities become providers of low-carbon solutions they can become "climate positive". Such cities would contribute to more emission reductions from the use of the solutions they export than the GHG they emit. In the future, climate-positive cities could become the most important solution providers on the planet.

Baoding in Hebei province may be well known for its potential to become the world's leading climate-positive city, but it is not the only Chinese city that holds such a promise. Dezhou in Shandong province is one. Products made in these cities are supplied to the domestic as well as the international markets.

Finally, it is important for cities to have a strategy that support multifunctional solutions. While climate change is important, it is not the only challenge we face.

Our efforts to reduce GHG emissions should also help solve other problems.

Solar solutions, for example, can help provide solutions for desalination plants and farming. Some interesting projects are in progress in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and Suntech is developing integrated solutions that allow desalination and cleaning of water at the same time as providing clean and renewable energy. These solutions would be good not just for the climate, but also increase food production, reduce poverty and help avoid conflicts.

Let's hope Chinese cities become a strong voice for a solution agenda. A lot is already going on in China, but these initiatives still need a stronger international voice.

The author is adviser to various companies, governments and NGOs.












我们希望中国能够成为发展低碳城市的强力支持者和践行者。尽管中国已经在这一领域做了相当多的工作,但这些做法和计划依然需要更好地向国际社会进行传播和推广,让所有国家都充分意识到低碳型发展的重要意义。(作者为世界自然基金会顾问 Dennis Pamlin 编辑 裴培 张峰)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Senior Associate at CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

From 1st of August 2009 to the 1st of August 2010 I will be a senior associate at CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). I really look forward to this

The research will focus on how a transition to a resource efficient society can create opportunities, especially for China and Chinese companies. Urban areas are a key focus and particularly how investments can transform the existing carbon/natural resource intensive 20th century infrastructure to a low carbon/resource efficient 21st century infrastructure. How to measure savings and reductions from different policies and technologies is a theme that runs through all the work. Converging trends and converging solutions/technologies are the two starting points for the research. The set of ideas that will be explored are all collected under the heading “21st Century Frontiers” to symbolize that the research areas are exploring opportunities that are just emerging or soon will emerge, rather that existing challenges and opportunities.

The work will focus on the following areas:

- Transformative changes in society
How significant changes in society can be calculated and assessed. Most of the methodologies today focus on incremental changes where the rest if society remains the same. This work will develop models that also include the underlying infrastructure and how different choices affect this underlying infrastructure through dynamic effects.

- Emerging technologies
How it is possible to calculate and assess the impact of threshold events, especially those resulting of convergence of different technologies (such as IT, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology). Of particular interest are methodologies that allow for assessment of “high impact/low probability” events.

- Low carbon/resource efficient lifestyles
How different choices of individuals, companies and governments can be assessed in relation to a sustainable lifestyle (i.e. a lifestyle that is possible for nine billion people to live). How information can be presented in a way that allow it to be used for decision making also under time pressure is of particular interest. What values that support a low carbon lifestyle is particularly important for this work.

- International economic architecture
How different initiatives can be developed in order for an international economic architecture to support a low carbon and resource efficient economy.

- Business models for a harmonious future
How business can develop tools and standards that allow them to assess their positive contribution to a low carbon/ resource efficient development. Instead of only focusing on companies as problems that should reduce their emissions this research focus on developing tools that allow companies to report the emissions reductions they

- Low carbon city development
How cities development can be measured, not just the direct emissions, but also aspects such as embedded carbon and consequences for export (e.g. so that a city can account for export of sustainable solutions).

The research will both support ongoing work in CASS as well as explore future opportunities for research. Strengthening the international profile and credibility of CASS is important and will be part of the assessment when the projects are evaluated.

Article in SEED: It Is the IP Culture, Not the Law, That is the Problem

Here is an article about IP from the web version of SEED

It Is the IP Culture, Not the Law, That is the Problem

The question of intellectual property has become key in discussions about climate change and new technologies. In the short term, the IP discussion is about existing solutions or solutions that could be implemented quickly. It’s evident that current IP protection could help companies invest in solutions for reducing emissions. And overall, it is reasonable to assume that continued IP protection would support investments that deliver incremental improvements.

The challenge, however, is that we need more than incremental improvements. Anyone attending a symposium/conference/workshop about innovation will see that very few of the ideas developed by entrepreneurs have anything to do with the challenges we face. This fact has very little to do directly with the IP system itself and more about the culture surrounding the system.

As we move ahead, three areas need to be included in the IP discussion:

First, how we can distinguish between sustainable solutions and unsustainable solutions? Today no such system exists, and there’s no way to know which solutions deserve our attention on the IP level. The system doesn’t need to be perfect—just being able to do a rough categorization would help us understand what kind of solutions are being developed. Then we could investigate a framework to disseminate those solutions.

Second, and perhaps most important, is to create a culture where individuals and companies are inspired to find solutions to the challenges. If innovators and investors could assess how many people are helped with different solutions, we wouldn’t have to rely on short-term economic gains and pure curiosity to guide technological development. Using increased connectivity to provide real-time information about the situation around the world could encourage people to spend more time trying to solve the food and climate crisis and less time developing iFart applications.

Third, we need to improve the transparency around the financial rewards for different kinds of innovations. It would become obvious that we are spending incredible amounts of money on things like incremental improvements in coal and fossil fuel cars when much better solutions exist. This in turn would expose the fact that many companies are encouraging innovation based on their current business model, rather than the best way to provide different services for people. Protecting IP rights for solutions that destroy the planet, when parts of these solutions could be used in another context to help the planet, does not make much sense at all.

Dennis Pamlin is a senior associate at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and global policy adviser at WWF. The opinions in this text are those of the author, not the organizations for which he works.