“Low-carbon economy” and its response

In the context of setbacks in the international institutional framework for climate change, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, the 2003 British energy white paper “Our Energy Future: Creating a Low-Carbon Economy” first proposed the realization of a low-carbon economic development model as the UK’s energy strategic goal, aiming to break the deadlock in international climate negotiations, build understanding and trust between developed and developing countries, and advocate for all mankind to jointly address the challenge of global warming. Britain’s proposal to “create a low-carbon economy” also has its own development requirements. As the first country to start industrialization, the energy in the UK is becoming increasingly scarce, and it is imminent to change the mode of production and consumption. In addition, the UK hopes to take advantage of energy infrastructure renewal opportunities and its advantages in low-carbon technologies to continuously improve its economic competitiveness, and to gain political advantages by occupying future low-carbon technology and product markets.

The British Energy White Paper in 2003 did not give an exact definition of a low-carbon economy and a comparable method and indicator system, but clarified the goals of a low-carbon economy development model, that is, to ensure the security of energy supply and deal with climate change on the premise of promoting social and economic development. Once this model was put forward, it was highly concerned and supported by most countries. Countries have formulated plans and goals to achieve low-carbon development according to their own conditions.

EU countries have been actively promoting the establishment of a global climate change system, and are also very active in developing technologies and industries for a low-carbon economy. Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2007, and in 2008 issued a Green Paper on the Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan. As a country with scarce resources, Japan has always attached great importance to energy conservation and carbon reduction. In June 2008, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda proposed the famous “Fukuda Blueprint” to prevent global warming, which is the official sign of the formation of Japan’s low-carbon strategy. In 2007, the US Senate proposed the “Low-Carbon Economy Act”, which proposed a ten-step plan to create a low-carbon economy. Although the Bush administration of the United States refused to ratify the “Kyoto Protocol”, the measures taken by the Obama administration in 2009 to adjust the United States’ response to the climate and energy crises gave the world new expectations for the United States’ attitude.

In 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the core body for addressing climate issues, released its fourth assessment report, which also It is also pointed out that for many sectors involving greenhouse gas emissions, low-carbon technologies such as “development of renewable energy”, “carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)”, “cogeneration”, “hydrogen energy development” can be selected to achieve emission reduction. In December of the same year, the United Nations Climate Conference in Bali formulated the “Bali Roadmap” for controlling greenhouse gases after 2012. The theme of the 2008 “World Environment Day” (June 5) was determined by the United Nations Environment Programme as “Transforming Traditional Concepts and Implementing a Low-Carbon Economy”. In July 2008, at the G8 meeting, the eight countries indicated that they would seek to work with other signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reach a long-term goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. In November 2009, the United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen emphasized the great significance of establishing emission reduction agreements on a global scale.

In 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao put forward four proposals at the 15th APEC leaders’ meeting, clearly advocating the development of “low carbon economy” research and development, promotion of “low carbon”, “increasing carbon sinks” and “promoting the development of carbon absorption technologies”. During this period, Chinese scholars also began to use the British definition of “low carbon economy” to carry out research. Zhuang Guiyang (2005) believes that the essence of low-carbon economy is to improve energy efficiency and clean energy structure, the core is energy technology innovation and institutional innovation, and the goal is to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable human development. Low carbon is understood as three situations: ① the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions is less than the growth rate of China’s GDP; ② zero emissions; ③ absolute emissions reduction. Pan Jiahua (2008) believes that in a low-carbon economy, low-carbon is the focus and development is the goal. Fu Yun et al. (2008) demonstrated the low-carbon economic development model, taking low-carbon development as the direction, energy conservation and emission reduction as the method, and carbon neutral technology as the method. Jiang Keshi, Hu Angang, and Zhang Shiqiu (2008) believe that a low-carbon economy is an economy based on low consumption and low pollution, which emits the least amount of greenhouse gases during development, and at the same time obtains the greatest output of the entire society. Wu Xiaoqing (2008) believes that its core lies in the development and utilization of low-carbon energy, the development and application of low-carbon technologies, and the production and consumption of low-carbon products. It can be considered that “low carbon economy” has narrow and broad connotations, and the narrow meaning is mainly technical, namely: improving energy utilization efficiency and improving clean energy structure; from a broad perspective, it has the connotation of technology, system and values, that is, to achieve energy conservation and emission reduction, develop a circular economy, and build a harmonious society through energy technology innovation, institutional innovation and a fundamental change in the concept of human survival and development.