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Introducing the China Energy and Climate Project

In collaboration with Tsinghua University, MIT launches a new research project to analyze the impact of China’s existing and proposed energy and climate policies.

Multiple forecasts suggest that rapidly developing nations such as China will be responsible for most of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions over the next 50 years. This expectation is the driving force behind the formation of a new project involving researchers from MIT and China, known as the China Energy and Climate Project (CECP), which officially launches today.

The China Energy and Climate Project will involve close collaboration and personnel exchange between the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the Institute for Energy, Environment and Economy at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. In collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative, the five-year project is based out of MIT and directed by Valerie Karplus PhD ’11, a recent graduate of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division. John Reilly, co-director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and senior lecturer in the Sloan School of Management, will be a principal investigator.

The goal of the CECP is to analyze the impact of existing and proposed energy and climate policies in China on technology, energy use, the environment and economic welfare by applying — and, where necessary, developing — both quantitative and qualitative analysis tools.

The development and application of such new tools will include both national and regional energy-economic models of China. Growing out of the MIT Joint Program’s Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis model, these new tools will be informed by three major components: First, researchers will study the behaviors and trends that drive micro-level decisions made by households and firms to better understand supply and demand within energy-intensive sectors. Second, the researchers will analyze specific technology prospects, including electric vehicles, advanced fuels and alternative sources of electricity, to determine China’s technology potential. Finally, current and proposed climate and energy policies in China will be evaluated for environmental and economic impact. These evaluations will be conducted primarily through the use of the models developed for the project, which will be based on similar methods employed in the MIT Joint Program over the last 20 years.

“We are building a strong trans-Pacific research team that brings expertise in economics, engineering and public policy to this exciting new project,” Karplus says. “Both sides are eager to get started, to learn from each other, and to produce rigorous analysis on important policy questions.”

The research carried out at MIT is funded by founding sponsors Eni, ICF International and Shell. The project will present its findings at an annual meeting in Beijing to influential members of the academic, industry and policy communities in China. The project will inform rigorous, transparent analysis of climate and energy policy options in China and its global implications.

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