Time to speed up the race for green cars

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Arecord 175 coun­tries signed the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change at the UN head­quar­ters on Earth Day on April 22. In his open­ing speech at the sign­ing cer­e­mony, which rep­re­sents a mile­stone in hu­mankind’s ef­forts to fight global warm­ing, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said: “The era of con­sump­tion with­out con­se­quences is over.”

The grand prophecy, how­ever, will not come true un­less all coun­tries take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to tread the green path to eco­nomic growth.

This is why it was in­spir­ing to see the in­stal­la­tion of sev­eral recharg­ing sta­tions for elec­tric cars in the park­ing lot ofmy res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity at the weekend. This shows lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Beijing are do­ing their bit to help the city em­brace elec­tric cars.

Elec­tric car own­ers in the com­mu­nity had a tough time recharg­ing their ve­hi­cles with makeshift equip­ment. Stories about some elec­tric car own­ers hav­ing to wait un­til mid­night for their turn at the recharg­ing sta­tions were not un­com­mon.

The in­stal­la­tion of a cou­ple of newrecharg­ing sta­tions has made life much eas­ier for peo­ple who own the elec­tric cars in the com­mu­nity. The num­ber of elec­tric cars may be small com­pared with the more than 1,000 gas-en­gine cars in the com­mu­nity, but it sig­nals a new­be­gin­ning for th­ese cleaner ve­hi­cles in the city.

The sales of new-energy ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing all-elec­tric and hy­brid cars, in the coun­try more than tripled last year thanks to sub­stan­tial gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. Al­though scan­dals in­volv­ing com­pa­nies try­ing to cheat the gov­ern­ment out of sub­si­dies ear­lier this year slowed the sales of new-energy cars, the first quar­ter sawa 100 per­cent in­crease in their sales year-on-year. And of the 58,125 such ve­hi­cles sold, 42,131 were elec­tric cars, up 140 per­cent year-on-year.

The sub­sidy scan­dals and the sub­se­quent slow­ing of sales growth, how­ever, will cast a shadow on the green ve­hi­cle sec­tor in China, which is caught be­tween the need to sus­tain the devel­op­ment of the world’s largest auto mar­ket and the ur­gency to cut emis­sions from cars that have been chok­ing ma­jor cities.

As such, Chi­nese pol­i­cy­mak­ers have to take ef­fec­tive mea­sures to in­crease the share of new-energy cars in the do­mes­tic auto mar­ket, which saw6.53 mil­lion ve­hi­cles be­ing sold in the first quar­ter of the year. Since less than 1 per­cent of the cars in China are elec­tric, the sales of green cars have to in­crease dra­mat­i­cally to help build a low-carbon fu­ture.

There­fore, pol­i­cy­mak­ers have no choice but to strengthen su­per­vi­sion on gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for elec­tric cars which will al­low du­bi­ous claimants to be pun­ished and real pioneers to re­ceive the ben­e­fits. They should also wel­come com­pe­ti­tion fromWestern man­u­fac­tur­ers like Tesla if they con­sider the amaz­ing rise of a num­ber of world-class smart­phone mak­ers in China since the in­tro­duc­tion of Ap­ple’s iPhones as a pos­i­tive sign.

More­over, pol­i­cy­mak­ers should dou­ble their ef­forts to boost some­thing they are good at— in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment— this time to help dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the use of elec­tric cars.

The sales of green cars have been dis­pro­por­tion­ately higher than the in­stal­la­tion of recharg­ing fa­cil­i­ties in re­cent years and that has damp­ened con­sumers’ en­thu­si­asm to buy new-energy ve­hi­cles.

That more recharg­ing sta­tions are be­ing in­stalled in public places as well as res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties in Beijing is a clear sign that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are de­ter­mined to see the ex­pan­sion of the new-energy ve­hi­cle sec­tor. But the fail­ures of pre­vi­ous in­fras­truc­ture pro­grams such as in­stal­la­tion of elec­tronic in­for­ma­tion bill­boards at bus sta­tions and use­less park­ing me­ters along the roads re­quire the au­thor­i­ties to ex­er­cise cau­tion while in­vest­ing in public in­fras­truc­ture.

Nev­er­the­less, the very im­por­tance of green cars for the city’s, the coun­try’s and global ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change should make the in­vest­ment in recharg­ing fa­cil­i­ties wor­thy of the cause that global lead­ers agreed to fight for on Earth Day.

The author is a se­nior writer with China Daily. zhuqi­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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