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Besides currency valuation, steel is perhaps the most contentious trade issue between China and the United States. Steel products face numerous traditional trade remedy actions in both countries, and are under intense scrutiny in the climate change debate. In the United States, Congress is considering whether to include in climate change legislation additional tariffs on imported steel and other energy-intensive products to offset alleged competitive harm to domestic industries, should other countries not commit to equivalent greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reductions.

China And Copenhagen
China’s chief climate negotiator, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) XIE Zhenhua, visited India at the end of October where he signed the Agreement on Cooperation on Addressing Climate Change. China and India together called on developed countries to take the lead in reducing GHG emissions and provide financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building support to developing countries.

It was not surprising for the world’s leading GHG emitter to form an alliance with India, another rising industrial power, on the eve of the Copenhagen meeting. Indeed, it was a victory for China to obtain India’s assurance that there “was virtually no difference between the negotiating positions” of the two Asian giants.

China slightly softened its stance in the final negotiations at the Copenhagen meeting, and signaled a willingness to abandon its demand for funding from the developed world. Meanwhile, China’s State Council announced that China would stick to its promise to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.

Although China thinks this promise to cut emissions is a large concession, it may not be viewed that way from the perspective of developed countries, or of those developing countries that are particularly at risk from climate change. With China’s economy expected to expand at a rate of 7 to 10 percent per year for the next decade, a 45 percent reduction per unit of GDP would mean that China’s GHG emissions would still rise substantially while China expects developed countries to make drastic reductions.

Climate Change And The Steel Industry
Even though China’s promise is not binding, Beijing is not paying mere lip-service to climate change. China has realized that it is in its interest to improve energy efficiency, particularly in the steel sector. Improved energy efficiency is the most cost effective way that China can lower its GHG emissions.

A case study of Hebei Province, China’s leading iron and steel producer (18 percent of the nation’s total iron and steel output in 2007), illustrates the benefit to China of improved energy efficiency, with reduced GHG emissions being a favorable side effect. The case study also demonstrates the difficulties Beijing faces in pushing local governments to shut down small and inefficient steel mills.

Low energy efficiency is one of the reasons why Hebei’s contribution to the nation’s economic growth lags behind coastal provinces. Gross industrial output created by Hebei’s large companies in 2007 was US$230.5 billion (RMB1,705.5 billion), accounting for 4.2 percent of China’s total; industrial value-added was US$65.2 billion (RMB482.3 billion), about 4.1 percent of the nation’s total. In contrast, the same indices for coastal Jiangsu Province, also a major steel producer, were roughly three times those of Hebei (13.2 percent and 11 percent respectively).

Increasing energy efficiency, and reducing GHG emissions, in Hebei’s steel industry depends upon closing old, inefficient mills. However, both the provincial government and the public are reluctant (or unable) to force the iron and steel industry to close those mills. Hebei Province relies heavily on energy intensive industries. It has attracted 112 of China’s Top-1000 energy consuming enterprises, with steel companies the most important. The industrial profit generated by the province’s large ferrous metal producers was US$6.8 billion (RMB50 billion) in 2007, 27.3 percent of the province’s total industrial profit produced by large companies in all industries. Steel employed in 2008 some 450,000 workers, 15 percent of the province’s total employment. As the unemployment rate is rising in Hebei, neither the provincial government nor the public wants to see those small inefficient steel mills closed.

So far, the province has taken one major step to improve the steel industry’s energy efficiency. It consolidated the province’s top two steel groups and launched the Hebei Iron & Steel Group (“HBIS”) in 2008, which became China’s number two steel producer. The creation of HBIS was to improve the competiveness and efficiency of Hebei’s steel industry. However, a recent Chinese study pointed out that China’s giant iron and steel producers are not necessarily more efficient than smaller companies. Compared to the size of a steel company, technology plays a more important role in improving efficiency, particularly energy efficiency.

As in the United States, steel is a major employer in China, and as in the United States, there is insufficient political will to sacrifice steel industry jobs on behalf of climate change. Industry consolidation is inevitable in China as it has been in the United States, but data do not support the perception that fewer, bigger steel mills must translate into reduced GHG emissions. It is not so much size as age that matters. Inefficiency may drive smaller, older mills out of business, but they are less likely to shutter because of a desire to clean up the environment.
 

        除人民币汇率这一议题之外,钢铁产品可能是中美两国间最备受争议的贸易议题了。钢铁产品不仅在中美两国都面临贸易救济行动,同时在气候变化谈判中也面临严峻考验。如果其他国家不愿相应减少温室气体排放,美国国会考虑将在气候变化法案中向出口至美国的钢铁等高能耗产品征收额外关税以确保本国企业竞争力。

中国和哥本哈根
         中国首席气候变化谈判代表——中国发展改革委员会副主任谢振华于2009年10月访问印度,并与印度官员签署了《关于应对气候变化合作的协定》。中印两国共同呼吁发达国家率先减少温室气体排放,并向发展中国家提供资金、技术转让和能力建设支持。

        作为世界最大的温室气体排放国,中国在哥本哈根会谈前夕与另一成长中的工业大国——印度达成这一协议并不令人惊讶。印度公开承诺两大亚洲巨人的“谈判立场基本没有差别”更是中国在外交领域取得的重大胜利。

         中国在哥本哈根会谈中稍稍缓和了其谈判立场,表示愿意放弃要求发达国家提供资金支持的要求。同时,中国国务院宣布中国将坚守至2020年,单位GDP减排百分之四十至百分之四十五的承诺

          虽然中国认为这一承诺是巨大让步,但是发达国家和直接面临气候变化冲击的发展中国家却不这么认为。中国经济在未来十多年里仍将以百分之七至百分之十的速度增长,因此单位GDP减排百分之四十五意味着中国温室气体总体排放量仍将显著上升。同时中国却期待发达国家显著减少温室气体排放。

气候变化与钢铁工业
          虽然中国的承诺不具法律效应,但中国并非是行动的矮子。中国认识到提高能效符合自身利益,尤其有助于钢铁产业发展。对于中国而言,提高能效是减少温室气体排放的最佳途径。

          河北省是中国第一大钢铁生产省(2007年产量占全国钢铁产量的百分之十八)。河北省的个案研究可充分展示提高能效有益于中国发展,以及中央政府在促使地方政府关闭小型、低能效钢铁企业过程中面临的种种难题。

           低能效是河北对中国经济发展的贡献远远滞后于沿海省份的重要原因之一。2007年河北省大型企业的工业总产值为17055亿元(2305亿美金),占全国工业总产值的百分之4.2;工业增加值为4823亿元(652亿美金),占全国工业增加值的本分之4.1。然而,同为钢铁大省、沿海的江苏省的这两项指标却是河北省的三倍(分别占全国总量的百分之13.2和百分之11。)

         河北省若想提高能效、减少温室气体排放,很大程度上依赖于关闭落后、低能效钢铁企业。但是,省政府和公众都不愿意(或是无力)施压钢铁企业、关闭这些落后、低能效的钢铁厂。河北省经济极度依赖高能耗企业。中国千大高能耗企业中有112家企业位于河北省。其中钢铁企业扮演最重要角色。该省大型钢铁生产企业在2007年创造了价值500亿人民币的工业利润(68亿美金),占全省大型企业工业利润的百分之27.3。同时,2008年河北省钢铁企业职工总数达到45万人,占全省就业人口的百分之十五。当省内失业人口不断攀升,河北省政府和公众都不希望看到小型落后钢铁企业关闭、带来更多失业人口。

           迄今为止,省政府已经采取一项重要举措以提高钢铁企业能效。河北省两大钢铁集团于2008年合并创建了中国第二大钢铁生产企业——河北钢铁集团。这一合并旨在增进河北省钢铁企业的竞争力和能效。但是,中国最近发布的一份科研报告指出,中国的大型钢铁生产企业的效率并不一定比中小型企业高。与企业规模相比,技术是决定效率(尤其是能效)高低的关键。

        与美国的情况相似,中国钢铁企业通常是就业大户;同时中国和美国一样缺少足够政治意愿,愿意以牺牲就业机会为代价减缓气候变化。和美国的经历相似,企业整合是中国发展道路中不可避免的趋势。迄今还没有足够的数据支持企业整合可以减少温室气体排放这一观点。企业大小并非关键。低能效可把小型落后钢铁企业驱逐出市场,但是改进环保却不是关闭它们的理由。

 (作者兼译者:朱晶)