China is taking the lead in a new industrial revolution that will curb greenhouse gases, said Nicholas Stern, the London School of Economics professor who wrote the U.K. government report on the costs of cutting pollution.
Stern said that China’s 12th five-year plan published this year was a “remarkable document” that will transform the country’s economy and may give it the edge over the U.S. and Europe as the world shifts away from fossil fuels.
“They are moving very strongly down the road to a low carbon economy,” Stern said at a press conference in Madrid today. “China is becoming the leader.”
United Nations officials are meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try and save the framework for controlling emissions. Limits outlined in 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol, the only global treaty curbing emissions, expire next year. China’s refusal to accept a cap on its own carbon dioxide output doesn’t mean it is not making efforts to reduce energy use, Stern said.
“Mutual confidence is very important, and that’s not necessarily the same as a legally binding agreement,” he said. “We have to get much better at that.”
Policymakers in the U.S. and Europe risk surrendering the most important new industry of this century to the Chinese through their reluctance to put in place incentives for clean energy production and energy efficiency, he said.
“We have seen in Europe some signs of hesitancy over the last year or so,” he said. “That’s a collective mistake.”
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