Recently, I had the chance to correspond with Kelly Sims Gallagher, an Associated Professor of Energy and Environment Policy at the Fletcher School, where she covers energy policy both in the United States and China. She is involved with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP), and its Energy, Climate, and Innovation (ECI) research program. Recently she directed the Energy Technology Innovation Policy program at Harvard University. Here were my 5 questions to her:
AH: During President Obama’s trip to China, the two countries released a joint statement with a major section on climate, energy, and the environment. Are these kinds of agreements mainly confidence building measures, or will it lead to major progress on things like energy efficiency?
Kelly Sims Gallagher: It is too soon to tell whether these agreements will result in substantive cooperation, but the agreements certainly create a framework and rationale for much deeper cooperation. The success and scale of the specific projects to follow will depend heavily on the extent to which the two governments provide funding and support.
AH: How do you think climate change negotiations will affect relationships between the two countries?
KSG: Eventually, the climate change negotiations will be central to the U.S.-China bilateral relationship because these two countries are the two largest emitters. There will be a tension between cooperation and competition for the new low-carbon markets that will emerge in both countries once they have domestic climate policies.
AH: As an expert on China’s energy policy, do you see them working towards a comprehensive solution or are they proceeding in a more ad hoc manner?
KSG: China is methodically developing a climate change policy using its own unique processes and institutions. The government established a National Leading Group to Address Climate Change, and is now considering how to incorporate climate policy into its 12th five-year plan.
AH: Has the push toward cleaner energy come from the Chinese people, or from the upper levels of government?
KSG: Both. Amazing levels of entrepreneurial activity are obvious with the emergence of renewable energy companies like Goldwind and Suntech, but the Chinese government at both the central and provincial levels is supporting and guiding these new industries.
AH: The U.S. military has invested in energy efficiency technology, alternative fuels testing, and electric and hybrid vehicles. Do you know if China’s military is taking any similar steps?
KSG: I don’t know about the details of the Chinese military procurement practices, but the central government is making a big effort to develop and implement a green stimulus package. In China’s economic recovery program, many new investments in high-speed railroads, efficiency programs, and clean energy innovation are being deployed right now.