The Harvard China Project, a research program on China's environment and energy system based at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, plans to use grant money it received last week through the University’s inaugural Climate Change Solutions Fund to conduct research on the future of renewable energy sources in China.
Michael B. McElroy, a professor of Environmental Studies who chairs the project, founded it 20 years ago to “chart a low carbon energy future of China.”
Collaborating with researchers based in China, the project has produced a series of publications on issues related to China’s renewable energy sources, air pollution, and environmental policies.
According to McElroy, the project has ties with senior officials in the Chinese government. As such, its findings may produce concrete changes in China’s energy policies, he said.
“China consumes half of the world’s coal and is the world’s largest importer of oil, so it’s important to understand what’s happening there and what the implications are,” McElroy said.
Last November, U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jianping reached a landmark climate change agreement at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, in which China committed to stop its carbon emissions from growing by 2030.
“But getting there is not easy and requires complicated research. The work we do here is a significant contribution to that goal,” McElroy said.
The project includes members who are highly knowledgeable about China’s environmental reality. Xi Lu, a research associate at the Harvard China Project who holds degrees from both Harvard and Tsinghua University, is researching the potential for wind energy in China.
"China's GDP is growing very fast, which means the energy demand is also growing very fast. This gives it an opportunity to invest in renewables," Lu said.
The grant from University President Drew G. Faust’s fund will help the interdisciplinary program grow its ties with other departments and institutions, McElroy said.
“[The grant] will help cement the relationships that exist between what we do at SEAS with colleagues at [the Department of] Economics,...the School of Public Health, and the Kennedy School, and [with] partners in China, notably Tsinghua University in Beijing,” McElroy said.
The Harvard China Project is also funded by the U.S. government, private foundations, and the China Three Gorges Corporation.
Created last April, Faust’s Climate Change Solutions Fund supports research initiatives intended to tackle climate change and accelerate the transition from carbon-based to renewable energy sources. Six other projects were also awarded grants.
—Staff Writer Zara Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @zarazhangrui.