Archive for December, 2007

Hong Kong

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Another very enjoyable — but very busy — extended stay in Hong Kong, lasting more than a month. I arrived in mid-November for another CLSA “offsite” session about the carbon market, with one of their major financial clients. But most of the month was spent working on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange project, along with our Mallesons and Climate Focus teammates. We finished up our report in mid-December, and had meetings with senior management and the Board of Directors to discuss our findings and recommendations. The story hit the front page of the International Herald Tribune, and you can see some of my quotes about using market mechanisms for a local pollution clean-up. We’ll obviously be watching closely to see what happens in the environmental marketplace in Hong Kong over the coming months.

R&R in Cebu and Macau

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City

While the work schedule was pretty demanding, I did manage to get away for several days over Thanksgiving, and headed down to Mactan Island, just off the coast of Cebu in the Philippines. Several years ago I had read the book Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen, a nicely written work subtitled: “Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe.” It described the harrowing adventures of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who unfortunately met his end at Mactan Island in 1521, when he was slain by the local chieftain Lapu-Lapu. We stayed in Lapu-Lapu City, but didn’t go to Cebu because of that — there’s a wonderful resort & spa there now — and they’re a whole lot nicer to visitors! The first day was a bit wet, with the remains of Tropical Storm Mitag passing by — but the rest of the time was sunny & balmy & absolutely delightful.

After the HK Stock Exchange study was completed in December, I also headed over to Macau to see the Venetian, which opened last August — and, yes, it’s everything that you’ve heard. Twice the size of the U.S. version, and big enough to hold ninety 747 jumbo jets, it has hundreds of shops, thousands of rooms, three separate water canals with gondola rides, etc., etc. It’s so over-the-top that it really was quite a bit of fun.

As I walked about, I couldn’t help recalling the late Jean Baudrillard’s theories about “simulacra” and “hyper-reality” which caused such consternation in academic circles a couple of decades ago. That bit of French post-modernism suggested that fakes/counterfeits eventually became part of the real, and then ultimately became more important than the reality itself. Baudrillard had traveled around the U.S. and published a book entitled America back in the mid-1980s (which one critic noted read as “if De Tocqueville and Kerouac took a lot of benzedrine and read a lot of critical theory and drove around America writing an insane book about it.”) He suggested that Disneyland was a microcosm of the U.S., and called the country “a perfect simulacrum.” I tried to imagine Baudrillard today, strolling through the Macau Venetian.

Blue skies at The Venetian

Our afternoon ferry ride over to Macau had passed though a pea-soup of pollution haze in the Pearl River Delta, and we couldn’t see other boats, or the horizon, or even the bright lights of Macau until we were almost into the docks. But inside, the skies over the canal waterways were bright blue, with fluffy white clouds, and painted-on birds flying high. And so I was wondering — is yet another “hyper-” title now passing along to China?


Saturday, December 29th, 2007

In mid-November I was in Beijing, visiting a number of organizations about the carbon market — including the newly formed CDM Fund. This group takes the funds that the Chinese government collects in “taxes” on Kyoto Protocol CDM transactions — e.g., the 65% fee on HFC destruction — and then invests that money in other climate change and sustainable development activities and projects. The Fund had officially opened only a few days earlier (on November 9th), and quite an amazing coincidence occurred at our meeting.

Ms. Xu Mingzhu & Roger

In greeting the CDM Fund officials, I found out that one of them — Ms. Xu Mingzhu — was a recent Beida graduate. In fact, it turned out that she was the college roommate of Ms. Zhang Xinwei, the moderator of our panel at Columbia U. the previous week! [See the previous posting. I realized much too late that I really should have had my picture taken with Ms. Zhang as well — but perhaps at next year’s CIPA meeting?]

CIPA at Columbia U.

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

In early November, I gave a presentation about sustainable urban energy systems at the China Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) annual meeting at Columbia University. Their 2007 Conference on Public Affairs in China had a number of university researchers from the U.S. (NYU, Yale, and Cornell) and China (Renmin, Xiamen), as well as private-sector speakers (myself included). Because the event was co-sponsored by Columbia’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association, I also had a chance to meet quite a number of Chinese students — including Ms. Zhang Xinwei, a Beida graduate now studying environmental management at Yale, who served as our ‘Environment Panel’ moderator. That evening the students and CIPA organizers (including the hard-working Wang Shuping, also at Yale) rewarded the speakers with a very nice Chinese dinner at a restaurant near the campus on Amsterdam Ave.