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China, Australia join hands in global carbon challenge

2013-03-26 15:46 Xinhua     Web Editor: Gu Liping comment

As the world watches China take the lead on a national carbon-pricing scheme, experts from Australia's prestigious University of New South Wales (UNSW) will begin work with leading Chinese universities in a landmark collaboration to be announced in Sydney this week.

The collaboration will be announced at the Australia China Climate Change Forum at UNSW on March 27. It will be attended by senior Australian government officials and their Chinese counterparts.

The forum will unite policy and technical experts in emissions reduction as well as representatives of major industries and businesses from both sides of a growing sphere of Sino-Australian cooperation.

Australia's cutting edge climate change work unit, UNSW's Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets, will establish deeper ties with Chinese researchers in several of the seven regions identified for pilot carbon trading markets.

Including the urban giants of Beijing and Shanghai, the researchers will break ground on the design, implementation and operation of pilot carbon schemes and other key issues for successful emissions reductions.

Associate Professor Iain McGill, joint director of Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at UNSW, told Xinhua that China was taking up the reins of global leadership on carbon pricing. "China is now poised to become one of the world's largest jurisdictions with carbon pricing in place. Successful development of a national scheme from their seven pilots can play a vital role in China's, and hence the world's, efforts to slow global warming and its impacts,"he said.

China's pilot emissions trading schemes are expected to commence from this year in key cities and provinces, before scaling up to a national scheme after 2015.

The pilot schemes will cover regions with a total population of around 250 million people, significantly extending the reach of carbon trading markets worldwide. China is the world's largest solar energy producer and the global leader in installed renewable energy.

Australia's controversial carbon tax scheme, introduced last year, has been both a source of political bloodletting and a disappointment in the pacific nation's standing in an international ranking of investment in clean energy.

The Climate Institute's global climate leadership review released this week saw Australia even hit reverse -- dropping from 16th to 17th position in the ranking of G20 nations.

France, Japan, China, South Korea and the UK make up the top five nations investing to reduce their carbon output.

The Institute has found that while Australia's investment in infrastructure and energy efficiency did improve, other nations are doing more to switch to a clean economy.

China saw its ranking jump from seventh position to third, with investment in solar panels driving its improvement.

The Climate Institute's John Connor said China's manufacturing strength will be important in building the clean energy market. "China has been one of the big improvers here because of its very substantial extra investments in clean energy, not only by cleaning up their own air pollution but because they see this is as a key market for the 21st century,"he said.

However, he said Australia's reliance on the coal industry is making it difficult to move to a cleaner economy.

Australia and China face some similar emissions reduction challenges, including the major role of coal-fired generation in their electricity sectors and significant emissions intensive industry. In 2012, Australia successfully implemented a carbon- pricing scheme drawing on lessons from the European Union scheme, which opened in 2005, and including some novel design features.

However, Connor said Australia had challenges ahead. "It's hard to transition. It's hard to make reforms when you have a high carbon economy, a high carbon political economy."

The Australia China Climate Change Forum at the University of NSW begins on Wednesday.

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