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MPs urge link-up with China on low-carbon research

Joint low-carbon research ventures and shared funding with China should be government priorities, according to a report by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee.

The report, published on 29 August, warns that the coalition government’s low-carbon work in China lacks strategic direction and coordination. It suggests R&D funding should be limited to a smaller number of focused, larger-scale projects and recommends investment in carbon capture and storage technologies.

The committee says China’s ambitious targets—to cut CO2 intensity by 40-45 per cent by 2020 and increase R&D spending from 1.7 to 2.2 per cent of GDP by 2015—should be capitalised on by UK businesses.

It adds that if the UK wants to secure business opportunities in China’s low-carbon technology market, reportedly worth around £430 billion, the government must maintain Britain’s low-carbon targets and competitiveness.

According to the committee, the UK has not shown other countries what it has to offer, and its image is “tarnished by the reputation of being ‘all talk and no action’”.

“The government must not allow the UK to fall behind in the high-tech low carbon race by faltering on its commitments to create a low-carbon economy here at home”, said the committee’s Conservative chairman Tim Yeo.

The MPs were unconvinced that UK Trade and Investment is focusing on the right areas to deliver high-value opportunities for UK businesses. They recommend the government carry out a full assessment in order to direct funding towards projects where the UK’s experience would benefit China.

CCS should be added to UKTI’s list as a “key decarbonisation technology…that has substantial export potential to coal-dependent countries like China”.

According to a committee statement, the government must “make up for its earlier failure to deliver a CCS demonstration project” and establish the first operational project in the UK before 2016.

The report also looked at areas where the UK leads research, development and deployment, such as offshore marine and wind technologies. However, according to evidence to the committee, Chinese businesses were “baffled” by UKTI’s claim to leadership in smart grid technology—an area in which China excels.

Evidence submitted from the University of East Anglia recommended making a formal agreement for a UK-China research institute on the interdisciplinary aspects of low-carbon production.

Peter Budd, vice-chairman of the China-British Business Council and director of Arup, suggested to the committee that such an institute should be jointly funded and said that the Royal Society was “pursuing work in this area”.