Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 4 News List

China, EU work to cut emissions, waste in Tianjin

THE GUARDIAN , TIANJIN, CHINA

A picture released by the NASA Earth Observatory shows a natural-color image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer of the dust storm that hit China last Saturday. The dust covers the lower half of the image and wraps around the right-hand side. The EU and the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area have announced they will work together to reduce emissions and waste through an industrial symbiosis program.

PHOTO: AFP, NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

The Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, a zone in northeastern China with a GDP of about US$45 billion a year, aims to reinvent itself as the Silicon Valley of low-carbon technology. However, it must first deal with the legacy of dirty and inefficient smoke-stack industry and low-cost manufacturing.

To reduce emissions and waste, Tianjin has teamed up with the EU to fund one of China’s first “industrial symbiosis” programs. In the initial four-year stage, it aims to bring 800 companies together, reduce 365,000 tonnes of landfill waste and 99,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Though relatively small in scale, the organizers hope powerful backing from Tianjin and the EU will enable the program to be replicated on a national scale.

The program aims to find efficiency gains between companies. By identifying and sharing needs, the waste of one firm can become the fuel or recycled raw materials of another. Chimney steam can be diverted to heat greenhouses. Unused meat and bone from cattle rendering can be burned as fuel for cement production.

“It’s like a sophisticated dating agency,” said Peter Laybourn, the head of UK-based International Synergies, which has been asked to share Britain’s experience of improving energy efficiency and reducing waste.

“We bring companies together that would not normally be introduced to one another,” he said.

Since 2002, the National Industrial Symbiosis Program that he helped to start in the UK has reduced 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, trimmed landfill waste by 35 million tonnes and created 8,770 jobs, he said.

“If we can achieve that in the UK, think what fantastic potential there is in China,” Laybourn told a packed audience in Tianjin.

China has long been criticized for using a great deal of energy and raw materials for a relatively small economic gain, though this is largely because it produces many of the world’s most polluting and energy-intensive goods.

“There is still a big gap in industrial efficiency between China and developed countries,” said Zhang Jun, the deputy chairman of the Tianjin Area.

As the EU and other partners unveiled a new low carbon center in Tianjin, Zhang said it was in the region’s interests to adopt and adapt know-how from overseas.

“This is important for our image, for our competitiveness,” he said. “If we do this well, we can develop and nurture a low-carbon industry with implications for the world.”

However, not everyone is happy about this.

US politicians and commentators have recently expressed concerns that China may take the lead in low-carbon technology and dominate the future of the power industry.

But representatives from the EU, which provided 80 percent of the project’s funding, said China’s rapid transition to a low carbon economy was in the world’s interest.

The political subtext of the program is an attempt to convince China that it can benefit from efficiency improvements and the promotion of clean technology.

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