Beijing & Baoding

Another busy travel period, with a third Asian trip in as many months…. this one took me to Beijing on behalf of UN ESCAP, which was sponsoring an Asian-Pacific Low Carbon Economy Forum (in conjunction with China’s Energy Research Institute and others). I prepared a Background Document for the Forum – with the considerable assistance of U. Penn student Ms. Sudha Iyer — and then made two presentations stressing the role of ‘urban energy integration.’

Baoding hotel solar wall

One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to Baoding, a city in Hebei Province southwest of Beijing. Baoding is conscientiously making a transition to high tech green technology, and is one of two cities in WWF’s Low Carbon City Initiative.

UN ESCAP’s Li Shaoyi

We visited a facility there making solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, another one manufacturing blades for wind turbines, and a five-star hotel with a ‘solar wall’ of photovoltaics. 

Roger at solar PV plant

In the pictures you can see UN ESCAP’s Mr. Li Shaoyi (my co-author on the emissions trading ‘leapfrog’ paper) at the wind blade plant, as well yours truly wearing a hairnet for the PV tour. Quite a fashion statement, huh?

On this trip I also did a presentation for the Beijing Energy Network, a group of (mostly young) professionals in the Beijing area who meet every other week to discuss China’s energy/environment issues & to hear a guest speaker. We met at the Blue Frog bar in the hip Sanlitun area of the city, & I talked about the ‘leapfrog’ emissions trading approach. Afterwards, one of them said: “Thanks for giving us such a ‘geek-y’ talk.” He meant it as a compliment – I think.

I was reading the new political thriller Ultimatum, by Matthew Glass, on this trip. This somewhat grim novel takes place in the year 2032, after the effects of global warming have kicked in, and the US & China are at loggerheads about reducing emissions. The Economist gave it an enthusiastic review, calling it ”a thriller for our age,” and noted that, as “the first politico-diplomatic-disaster thriller, Mr. Glass’s engrossing work leaves the reader thinking long after the last page is turned.” Reviewers on have been a bit less kind. I thought the novel started off quite strong, outlining the differences in US & China political responses & negotiating approaches to the problem….. but then the story became increasingly less plausible as the novel went on. The degree of precision suggested throughout (e.g., we need a 12.3 percent reduction in emissions in the first five years, followed by 11.4 percent in the following five) was troublesome — but of course it’s meant to be a novel, not a policy document. Many reviewers have compared it with Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, another popular (but opposite view) global warming novel. The Economist called that one “a diatribe,” and considered Ultimatum the better work….. and I suppose that’s true. But State of Fear was over-the-top, popcorn-munching reading entertainment, with murderous graduate students & faked car crashes & cannibalistic islanders. This one certainly has more gravitas — but truthfully, there’s already more than enough to fret about in those policy documents.

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