Bo Qiang Lin, Economist, China

“Do we have an alternative?”

The economist Bo Qiang Lin is the director of the China Center for Economic Research at Xiamen University and vice chairman of the China Energy Society. As a member of the National Energy Consultation Committee, he advises the China Energy Commission.

“China has set very high goals to reduce its energy consumption and CO2 emissions. I know that these goals are very ambitious. But do we have an alternative? The smog has now assumed serious to catastrophic proportions throughout most of China. People are suffering, and they rightly demand that something finally happen, but for that to happen we have to move away from coal above all else. For the first time, China’s environmental policy is no longer about relative but rather absolute reduction targets. Economic growth and CO2 emissions have been decoupled. We want to reduce energy consumption by one per cent annually. This presents us with enormous challenges. We can’t forget that China is still a developing country, and the need to catch up to industrialised countries is immense. But I’m convinced we can achieve these targets. When we manage to substantially improve energy efficiency and utilise renewable resources such as water, wind and son, we will have already come very far. But that’s still not enough. We absolutely need nuclear energy. The general public sees it that way, too. Nuclear energy is accepted in China, and he country plans to build on average up to 10 nuclear power plants each year until 2020. This will give us a capacity of 50 gigawatts. China has caught up in terms of technology, and the first functioning third-generation reactors has made us pioneers of the new power plant generation. I’m also not concerned that we're lacking enough skilled workers for such a rapid expansion. The Fukushima disaster made our leaders think very deeply, and they have made nuclear safety the highest priority.”

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