Harvard-Tsinghua Workshop on Low-Carbon Development and Public Policy

Post-Workshop Summary

The Harvard-Tsinghua Workshop on Low-Carbon Development and Public Policy is the third annual joint workshop between the Harvard Kennedy School’s Environment and Natural Resources Program and the Sustainability Science Program and the Center for Science, Technology, and Education Policy at Tsinghua University. The workshop convened prominent members of the academic and policy communities from China and the United States at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, on June 2-3, 2016. In addition to off-the-record discussion among the participants, the workshop also included keynote addresses attended by students and the media.

The three closed sessions were on: 1) Market Mechanisms to Reduce Carbon Emissions, 2) Role of Local Government in Low-Carbon Development, and 3) Energy Technology Innovation in the Transportation Sector.

Two recent international events have shaped the direction of low carbon policy in both the United States and China. The first is Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama’s joint statement setting targets for reducing carbon emissions in their respective countries and the second is the 2015 Paris Agreement. 176 United Nations member states and the European Union signed the Agreement on greenhouse gas emission mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Both China and the United States submitted ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) setting national targets. Now the task before each country is to reach those ambitious goals.

The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level in 2025. The United States will double the pace of CO2 emission reduction from the historic average rate of 1.2% per year between 2005 and 2020 to 2.3-2.8% per year between 2020 and 2025. China pledged to reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (carbon intensity) by 60-65% below 2005 levels by 2030; peak CO2 emissions around 2030; and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to approximately 20%. The carbon intensity goal will require a 4% annual decrease in carbon emissions– a higher rate than the United States or Europe will need to meet their respective goals.

The workshop keynote addresses laid out the challenges and opportunities for the United States and China to meet its climate change mitigation commitments. Non-fossil fuel generated energy must reach 30% of the U.S. energy portfolio and this goal depends heavily on increasing nuclear and renewable energy capacity.

The core of China’s energy strategy is to develop a new energy system dominated by nuclear power, renewable energy, and energy efficiency investment. In both China and the United States, electrification of the transportation sector is an important component. China has promoted electric vehicles (EVs) as a national strategy to transform its transportation energy structure while fulfilling consumer desire to own cars. The subsequent workshop sessions focused on the policy options to meet these climate mitigation and energy transformation goals.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Environment and Natural Resources
For Academic Citation: Lee, Henry, et al. "Harvard-Tsinghua Workshop on Low-Carbon Development and Public Policy: Post-Workshop Summary." Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University, September 2016.

The Authors

Henry Lee