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France and the ecological new deal

France's president has urged China to commit to sustainable development. Wang Dongying talked to Brice Lalonde, the French climate-change ambassador, and asked him what China can learn from France's new green initiatives.

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With its per capita greenhouse-gas emissions 21% below the European average, France is aiming high in its hopes for green growth. The country has recently pledged to play a leading role in the EU in tackling climate change, and expressed its hopes for an ecological “New Deal” in China. Dongying Wang caught up with France's climate change ambassador, Brice Lalonde, and asked him about trade, energy and the low-carbon economy.




Dongying Wang: France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, revealed a series of national environmental policies in late October, resulting from the Grenelle Environment Forum, a five-way dialogue involving trade unions, businesses, NGOs, elected representatives and the administration. France expects this to usher in greater transparency of environmental information, principles which have also been urged in countries like China to tackle worsening environmental issues. Why has made France adopted this new approach to government decision-making?

Brice Lalonde: As soon as he was elected, the Nicolas Sarkozy said that combating climate change was his priority. He wanted to discuss the best way to implement this priority with major stakeholders, including a very popular NGO leader named Nicolas Hulot, who had been lobbying all the candidates during the presidential election. This lead to the “Grenelle” process.

DW: Carbon-cost consideration and a range of ecological solutions are being discussed as key principles on which France is pursuing its climate-change policy. How do you think this will transform the way in which France grows? And what challenges will France face during this transformation?

BL: France has already experienced a set of policies to reduce the share of fossil fuels in its energy mix. Eighty percent of our electricity is produced by nuclear power. We have designed fast trains to avoid using too many domestic flights and we produce small and efficient cars.

We have now decided on major programmes to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, increase public transportation in our cities and expand the use of renewable energy. We shall modify our tax system to favor low-carbon activities.


DW: France’s has great ambitions for organic agriculture, intending to expand its share of land use to 20% by 2020, from the current 2%. Can France really develop organic agriculture within the EU when it takes over its presidency in the second half of 2008?

BL: France has a strong agriculture and believes it can produce in a more environmentally friendly way without reducing yields. At the same time, the European Union is moving its common agriculture policy in the same direction.

DW: What is your vision of a “zero-carbon economy”? What do you think are the main obstacles to such development?

BL: We all have to invent it. On the supply side, we shall probably have an array of different solutions – either decentralised or on the grid. Perhaps hydrogen, or a similar gas, will be our main energy vector. On the demand side, we shall have to find a low-carbon way of living, which will probably mean less energy intensive.


DW: France recently called for a worldwide economic and ecological “New Deal” at the United Nations. What did this mean?

BL: President Sarkozy believes sustainable development is the goal. He thinks the idea is not to stay with end-of-pipe solutions, or incremental reductions of carbon dioxide emissions, but to reinvent economic growth on an environment-friendly manner, and that this requires a strong international cooperation.

DW: Sarkozy has also suggested that imports from abroad should comply with French environmental regulations. (An international approach such as this might have helped prevent some of the recent recalls of Chinese-made products.) In China, over 70% of overseas investment in the country is in the manufacturing industry, and this must be partly due to the country’s weak environmental regulations. What kind of international policies would you suggest to ensure a greener system of global trade? Could carbon-labelling be an option?

BL: Business goes to China much more because it has become a huge market, and the cost of labour is lower than in Europe, rather than to avoid environmental regulations. But it is true that the issue of fair competition is becoming central, and we must find a way of addressing it. France is in favour of carbon labeling.

DW: In October, the EU extended anti-dumping duties on imports of energy-saving light bulbs from China. At a time when the EU is chasing ambitious energy-saving targets to fight climate change, how should it balance its use of trade barriers to protect regional industrial production and its need to import greener products?

BL: The anti-dumping duty on exports of Chinese energy-saving bulbs to Europe is due to the fact that these bulbs are produced with a rare – which means expensive – material that one can find in China. On the one hand, China refuses to sell this material to European bulb producers, and on the other hand, it does not incorporate the real price of this material into the bulbs it exports to Europe.

But you are right, it would be better to have a free trade of environmentally friendly products.


DW: As a former French minister for the environment, you were instrumental in designing and implementing French laws on water and waste. What suggestions can you give China in dealing with its worsening water scarcity and pollution?

BL: I think China should create river basins authorities, which bring all water users of a river around the same table to ensure that the water is properly used, equitably shared and cleaned up before discharge.

When water is scarce, it is important to increase water efficiency (“more crop per drop”), and to clean and recycle the waste water.

DW: President Sarkozy recently reiterated France’s commitment to nuclear power, saying: “The idea that we can meet the climate challenge in France without nuclear energy is an illusion. Today we have no choice, unless we give up growth.” Using this same logic, shouldn’t China continue to rely on fossil fuels for its growth? Should China perhaps prioritise clean coal technology, rather than developing renewable energy?

BL: Clean coal technology is crucial for countries like China or the United States, who rely heavily on coal. The trouble is that clean coal technologies are still fairly expensive and in the pilot phase. I believe China is bound to use them, though they need quite a lot of extra energy to be implemented.


DW: As France’s ambassador for climate change negotiations, how would you comment on China’s climate-change efforts, with its expected overall energy efficiency likely to increase by 20% by 2010 from the 2005 level?

BL: I appreciate China’s policies and measures to combat climate change. The main points of our climate talks would be to assess the outcome of these policies and to include them in an international regime. Everybody knows we have to reduce greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere. So what are we all aiming at? We need to fix a common goal.

DW: China is now the world’s leading provider of carbon credits through Clean Development Mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol, but the up-to-date technology China has received only accounts for a very small proportion of expertise given by developed countries. How could this issue be fixed to ensure a really successful arrangement under Kyoto?

BL: I think CDM projects in China are successful because they really reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. China would probably benefit from greater technology if it allowed foreign-owned companies to use CDM. For the time being, only Chinese companies are eligible.

Dongying Wang is managing editor of chinadialogue

Brice Lalonde is France's ambassador for climate change. He chairs the Sustainable Development Roundtable for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and was the French minister for the environment from 1988 to 1992.

 All photos above © Rob Welham

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


1. 关于中国生产的节能灯泡,布利斯有没有具体说明在生产过程中使用了哪种稀有物质?我之前没有听到过这方面的信息,很有兴趣知道得更详细一些。
2. 布利斯说只有中国企业才有资格参与CDM是什么意思,是作为低碳技术和资金的接收者吗?这是否也不包括中外合资企业?如果允许外资企业也参与,那么CDM项目再没有来自发展中国家的接收者的情况下,如果实现其鼓励发达国家帮助发展中国减少排放的初衷呢?


Two questions

1. Regarding to the energy saving light bulbs made in China, did Brice say what is the rare material that is used in the production of these bulbs? I come across any information on this before, it will be very interesting to know more.

2. What does Brice mean that only Chinese companies are eligible to use CDM, as recipient of low carbon technology and revenue? Does that mean even not for foreign joint ventures? If it is allowed for foreign owned companies, how would CDM projects then, when there is no recipient from developing countries, facilitate low carbon technology transfer? and how does this comply with CDM's initial purpose of encouraging developed countries to help developing countries reducing their emission?

Tao WANG---Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research & Sussex Energy Group

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


Dave Feickert,在华能源与采矿安全顾问

A breath of fresh air

Brice Lalonde is a breath of fresh air. Thnaks dongying for doing this excellent interview. Re the CDM's in China there is such a large potential number of conversion/replacement possibilities from old (coal)plant to new that Chinese firms would not lose relative amounts of business if the CDMs wer opened up to foreign firms. In any event there could be a ratio agreed between domestic and foreign. At the moment the system works to encourage design and production of clean technologies in China itself and this is a good thing; but the scale of the use of CDM required is huge. There is too much money chasing too few projects at the moment. So this mismatch needs to be solved.

We should also bear in mind that new coal plant will also help get rid of the smog (particles and other combustion gases like sulphur dioxide, not just reduce C02) and dramatically improve people's health and local environments.

Dave Feickert, Energy and mine safety adviser working in China

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


亲爱的戴维,谢谢你的解释。我搜索了一下,发现2006年一个叫做“InWEnt”的德国非盈利组织的一份名为“发展与合作”的杂志上有一篇文章持有和你相近的观点。作者Dr. Anne Arquit Niederberger说中国政府实行这样的政策意在保证当地发展的利益。我认为这是可以理解的。在她的文章里她建议中国应该开放CDM项目给外国公司作为“外国企业为中国可持续经济做出贡献的额外激励”。 我同意她的说法,不过让我们看看更多她的文章提供的信息。

首先,她提到“(在中国)一半以上的出口是由外资(包括合资)企业生产的,出口创造了三分之一的中国国内生产总值。70%在中国的直接投资都是流向全资外资企业”。因此很明显,外商直接投资在中国有着蓬勃发展的生意,可观的利润,而且绝大部分的投资,以及利润,都流向没有中国企业参与的全资外资企业。我很怀疑中国还需要用清洁发展机制带来的资金来让外商直接投资更有吸引力, 或者清洁发展机制的基金能否对外商投资的决定产生一丁点儿的影响。第二,她也提到了经合组织2001年的一份关于外商投资对中国环境影响的报告。报告说“很大一部分外商直接投资都是流向污染密集型企业;跨国公司母国的环境标准会影响他们在中国子公司的运作,来自亚洲国家的投资者,中国外商直接投资的主力,比来自经合组织的投资者更倾向于在中国采用低于母国的环境标准。”那么我的问题是,如果按照布利斯•拉兰德大使的说法(企业)到中国发展业务不是为了躲避环境法规,那么为什么这些在中国外商投资要使用更低的环境标准呢?收益于中国低廉的劳动力和资源,在中国生产已经要比在经合组织国家生产便宜得多了,即使采用与母国一致的环境标准也同样可以盈利,那为什么没有呢?这不是因为追逐最大利润吗?而现在我们知道通过在中国的投资中一开始使用比较低的环境标准而稍后再用已经掌握的更好的技术将它升级,外国企业甚至可以得到另一份由清洁发展机制的碳减排认证带来的横财!抱歉我不能同意你的观点。




windfall profit?

Dear Dave,thanks for your explanation. I did a bit search and found a 2006 article in a magazine named “development and cooperation” published by a German non-profit organisation “InWEnt” held similar point to you. The author, Dr. Anne Arquit Niederberger says that Chinese government has this rule with intention to ensure local development benefits. I think it is understandable. In her article she suggested that China should allow CDM project to foreign comanies “as perks for foreign investors to contribute to a sustainable development of the Chinese economy”. I agree with her. But let’s look for more information provided in her article.

First, she said “Over half of export products are manufactured by foreign-invested enterprises, and export activity generates one-third of Chinese GDP. Over 70 percent of FDI in China goes to wholly foreign-owned enterprises.” So certainly foreign investments in China already have a booming business with sizable profit and the majority of investment, as well as profit goes to wholly foreign-owned enterprises without involving Chinese enterprises, I doubt China need to use revenue from CDM to make it more attractive to FDI, or would that affect FDI’s decision at all. Second, she also cited an OECD report in 2001 on the overall impacts of FDI on China’s environment. It read “a substantial fraction of FDI flows to pollution-intensive industries; multinationals’ home-country (environment) standards affect the standards they employ in their affiliate’s operations in China, and there is a tendency for investors from Asian countries, who account for the majority of FDI to China, to have lower home-country standards than OECD investors”. My question is then, if as Ambassador Brice Lalonde says that business does not go to China to avoid environmental regulations, why would these FDI in China use lower standard in China. Manufacturing in China is already much cheaper than in OECD countries due to low labour and resource cost, holding the same environment standard as in home country would still be profitable, then why not? Isn’t it because of pursuit of profit maximising? And now we know by using lower environmental standard in the investment at the first place and then upgrade them later with better technology that is already in hand, the foreign company can even get anther windfall revenue from CDM credit! I am afraid I cannot agree with that.
If at this moment there are too few CDM projects with a too large potential of carbon reduction in China, why not go to the many inefficient Chinese plants help them to reduce emission and get as many CERs as allowed? Alternatively, I would agree to allow CDM for foreign joint ventures if the CER revenues can be fairly divided between foreign and domestic, and a large portion is used specifically to improve local development benefits or to help low carbon technology transfer to the domestic partner. But I am definitely opposing to open CDM to wholly foreign-owned enterprises.

If interested, the article can be found at

Tao WANG---Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research & Sussex Energy Group

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


Dave Feickert,在华能源与采矿安全顾问

Re: comment 3.

Thanks Tao Wang for your comments on mine. The challenge for all of us then is to find a 'win-win' solution to this set of issues, in order to create a better local and global environment. the Chinese people must be the main beneficiaries, but I believe such a solution is possible. could I suggest that you lay out the situation as you see it now, step by step and then we look at an overall solution? I am willing to discuss this with different groups in China, including the government, with whom I work on mine safety. Dave

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

回复Wang Tao

Wang Tao:我想澄清你提出的关于我的文章的几个问题。事实是这样的,对中国大陆,FDI最大的单一来源并非是OECD国家,而是香港,它几乎占据了FDI的1/3(其他主要的非OECD来源包括台湾和新加坡,以及作为避税地的英属维尔京群岛及开曼群岛)。所以这些国家的标准水平影响着它们的FDI水平,在中国缺乏如此严格的要求。正如我所指出的,中国政府缺乏雄心勃勃的国内环保法规和(或)强制实行政策。基于这一点,有些情况下,多民族会比国内的企业有着更高的要求标准,仅仅是因为它们必须严格遵守以留住它们的经营执照。遗憾的是,你并非读懂了我文章的关键思想:通过对主要外商经营的企业施行CDM合理化,中国可以有效的改善FDI带来的意想不到的不良后果,作为CERs的另一个价值,它可以为外国投资者提供一个新的诱因,让他们能够主动的“超越遵守”。这会成为吸引高质量的外商投资的针对性的诱因,尽管它会给优先税收待遇和其他诱因带来压力。有关CDM作为FDI的诱因的更深入更全面的讲解可以在跨国公司UNCTAD杂志上看到: 这里 Anne Arquit Niederberger Policy Solutions [email protected]

Response to Wang Tao

Wang Tao: I would like to clarify a couple of issues you raised related to my paper. The fact is that the largest single source of FDI to mainland China is not OECD countries, but Hong Kong, which accounts for about 1/3 of FDI (other major non-OECD sources are Taiwan and Singapore, as well as the tax havens BVI and Cayman Islands. So the level of standards in these countries affect the quality of their FDI, in the absence of stricter requirements in China. As I point out, ambitious domestic environmental regulations and/or enforcement by Chinese authorities are lacking. On that point, it appears that multi-nationals are held to a higher standard than domestic enterprises in some cases, simply because they must comply to retain their "license to operate".

Unfortunately, you did not pick up on the key thought in my paper: By opening CDM eligibility to majority foreign-owned enterprises, China would have an effective tool to ameliorate unintended negative consequences of FDI, as the added value of CERs would offer a new economic incentive for foreign investors to voluntarily go “beyond compliance.” This could be a targeted incentive to attract quality foreign investment, despite pressure to roll back preferential tax treatment and other incentives.

A more in-depth look at CDM as a driver of FDI was published in the UNCTAD journal, Transnational Corporations here [pdf]

Anne Arquit Niederberger
Policy Solutions [email protected]