Prof Xiliang Zhang is Associate Editor of Climate Policy, published by Taylor & Francis. As well as this, he is Director of the Institute of Energy, Environmental and Economic Research, Tsinghua University, and leader of the research team on Energy Management and Climate Planning Innovation.
In November 2017, he attended the 23rd United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) held in Bonn, Germany. We caught up with Prof. Zhang about the main points of the conference, what he thinks about China’s role in international cooperation on climate change, and the advice he has for early career researchers keen to know more about the journal.
What do you think the main points the 23rd United Nations Climate Conference were?
In 2017, the agenda of conference was mainly for each country to express their own viewpoints and suggestions based on the implementation mechanism and scheme of the Paris Climate Accord. According to my personal observation, update issues of NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions), stocktaking issues relating to the global response to climate change, and issues of capital mechanism were the hotspots discussed at 2017 conference, and they are also the core issues of the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord.
What role does China play in international cooperation on climate change in the future?
Over the past five years, I feel that the role China plays at the United Nations Climate Conference has become more positive and active, and China will be having more leading role in the future too. China is seriously fulfilling its commitments to the international response to climate change, as well as focusing on the participation of the construction of the international climate change governance system. In the national key research and development plan, a five-year research project was specifically established for the stocktaking of global carbon reduction action.
What are China’s policies, and your expectations, for the future low carbon economy?
China’s transformation to low carbon economy has three core guidance indices. Firstly, China’s carbon emission will peak at around 2030 as committed in the DNC, and efforts are being made to shorten the time needed to reach its peak. Secondly, there will be a 60-65% reduction in carbon emissions per unit gross domestic product (Carbon intensity) in 2030, compared with 2005. Another core index is that non-fossil fuels will be having a 20% ratio in all disposable energy supply in 2030.
In addition to our active response to climate change, China also positively helps other developing countries responding to climate change: the establishment of the South Cooperative Climate Change Fund, for example, and the organization of various international training classes. We also invite officials of some developing countries and transforming governments, as well as some industrial representatives to China, for studies and training. In the past, we were invited to developed countries, such as the EU, for trainings, but now we are organizing and inviting others for such trainings, indicating that the role China plays is gradually changing.
You’re also the Associate Editor of Climate Policy. How and why did you get involved in the journal?
I started as the editorial board member on the journal, later becoming the Associate Editor. I would like to contribute more in the international climate change policing and academic propagation, and to promote communications between Chinese and international scholars. In the past, knowledge of intentional climate change and academic propagation experts were mainly from developed countries, such as the US and Europe, and there were few Chinese representatives and their viewpoints were viewed as less important. Not only did I wish to introduce the outstanding research outcomes of Chinese scholars to the world, but I also hoped to bring international ones to China, especially those that may have a practical impact in corresponding departments of the Chinese government when making a specific policy.
What are you ambitions for the journal?
I believe Climate Policy is a journal at a relatively high academic level; this is not only based on my own perceptions, but the observations of many of my colleagues. Thus, I hope that there could be more voices from China in such a rigorous, high academic-level journal. Furthermore, I wish to find a new channel for researchers who are studying climate change, since there are few journals of high quality in terms of the study of policing and social science, and those qualified to be indexed in the SSCI are even lesser. Climate Policy, however, is indexed by the SSCI and has a good Impact Factor.
In China, research funds for climate change have rapidly increased over the past few years, and this is the basis for productive, high-quality research outcomes. I think that Climate Policy will receive an increasing amount of high-quality submissions from Chinese researchers from now on, and have a large number of Chinese readers as well, of course.
What is your advice to early career researchers who are keen to know more about Climate Policy?
I encourage early career researchers to pay more attention to Climate Policy; not only does it prefer to publish basic research outcomes of policy, but it also has high-quality practical research outcomes of policy. I would say that it is always better for early career researchers to actively get themselves involved in the society, rather than staying in the office while conducting a research, especially for those practical policies demanded by the government. In doing so, the chances that submissions will be accepted by Climate Policy would tremendously increase.
For the purpose of propagating Climate Policy to more researchers and receiving more high-quality submissions, I suggest that some training programs should be organized among universities and research institutions in China. If necessary, I am willing to organize such writing trainings with the Editorial Advisory Board and Taylor & Francis to make progress all together.