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LOW CARBON CITY: A NON-REGRET OPTION

Preface

Global warming and low-carbon development are two major concerns around the globe. Debates firstly focus on whether the earth’s climate is actually getting warmer, and whether greenhouse gas is the leading cause of climate change. All of these hypotheses can only be proved by scientists. Then, how do we economists contribute? We suggest that, no matter whether you believe in global warming or not, and even if the majority of people are not convinced, you have to acknowledge the possibility of potential risks. These risks should be taken into account when making economic policies. That is our attitude towards climate change.
As economists, we should not just sit back and wait for the investigations of scientists. Something should be done to prepare for any negative results that might materialize. It may be possible that if no effort is made regarding this issue now, later attempts might be in vain and true costs will be both apparent and regretful. This is the reason that we propose the idea of non-regret mitigation. Simply speaking, this means that we change ways of thinking and behaving by making some minor tweaks to our system at little cost. The benefits gained will basically be larger than what is paid. Therefore, any efforts will not be regretted. 
Based on the above observations, we have to define the scope of non-regret mitigation. The first consideration is technological innovation. Some technological innovation might be effective, but also costly. We should focus on low-cost options with greater returns. The second consideration is system reform. This involves paying more attention to the optimization of system and policies that could accelerate low-carbon development and green growth. For instance, restructuring the industry and improving efficiency with more reasonable policies would be both beneficial to greenhouse gas emission and the progress of society as a whole. 
As the largest developing economy, China recognizes its responsibility to world development. As members of mankind, it is also our obligation to provide more public goods. On one hand, we should keep on developing our economy without sacrificing the environment; on the other hand, we should take advantage of new markets brought about by low-carbon economy. In short, emission mitigation could parallel economic and social progress. 
Over the years, China Development Institute (CDI) has been involved in research and consultation regarding public policies in urbanization, infrastructure, restructure, the environment, and rural-urban immigration, etc. The way toward a low-carbon economy is also one of our major concerns.
Since 2009, CDI has set up a research team on low-carbon economy led by Dr. Guo Wanda, the Executive Vice President. This book serves as a demonstration of their findings in the previous period. It mainly concentrates on solutions of China establishing a low-carbon society with non-regret policies. The release of this book also shows their willingness to participate in the global discussion on climate change.


Fan Gang
Aug., 2011. Beijing