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IDSA-ECYLF Essay on Display Writing Competition: Our Second Place Winner!

Published by Foreign Affairs Bulletin by IDSA on



The following was the second place winner of our “Essay on Display” Competition, Tofiq Bayramov!



In the recent times, the environmental problem became one of the most important and global challenges which every country tries to tackle it. Particularly, climate change is one of the bitter consequences of environmental crisis. Since 19th century, the rapid evolution of the technology and new economic opportunities harmed our environment enormously. This article is about Chinese and European environmental models, what policies they have accepted, how they have enforced and the results of them. Even though both models are quite different, there are certain similarities. The most important one is both China and EU are striving hard to change the environmental situation to make it better and their efforts have been mixed success.



Until recent times, Chinese economy was solely based on maximizing production and ignoring its environmental impacts. However, this situation started to change gradually. The creation of National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) in 1987 was the one of the first serious actions which was taken by Chinese Government. The role and the importance of NEPA has increased over time. It was upgraded to State Environmental Protection Agency in 1998. In 2008, this organization was elevated to full ministry level by being transformed into Ministry of Environmental Protection. Furthermore, between 2006-2010 China created a three-tier governance system. Their systematic approach is top-down and there are national, provincial and municipal organizations. Basically, the national organizations determine environmental targets to achieve and then provincial and municipal organizations decide to enforce which policies. Moreover, there are several systems to inspect environmental quality and pollution levels. As a result of it, massive amount of data is collected about environmental management, nuclear and radiation safety and other indicators for each city. Usually, Chinese authorities ratify a five-year plan to determine their economic, political, social and environmental policies based on the actual circumstances. In the 13th plan (2016-2020), they have classified bettering environmental quality as the main target of environmental policy and governance. After the failure of talks in Copenhagen in 2009, the environmental situation got significantly worse in China. There was large smog over the several cities. That prompted China to accept further and urgent measures to tackle this issue. They have accepted an ambitious plan to reduce smog by 2017. The key component of this plan was to achieve “Energy Revolution” in a very short period of time. Government has urged everybody to decrease the usage of coal, since it was one of the key factors that was hazarding the environment. They started to make a transition to natural gas and renewables. The share of coal dropped down from 72 % to 59 % from 2005 to 2018. Afterwards, China has already committed themselves to a timetable to peak carbon emissions. This was one of the important breakthroughs for the whole world, since it paved way to Paris agreement in 2015. In 2016, big solar electric stations were created on Datong. Indeed, China was successful by cleaning their blue skies from smog by the end of 2019. Another breakthrough happened in 2018 when the concept of “Ecological Civilization” was drafted into constitution. At the same time, the entire central government structure was reconfigured to match current Chinese President Xi’s view that China’s natural resources and ecological wellbeing should be carefully protected and managed (Tianjie, 2019) They continue to invest heavily on the renewables. A lot of wind and solar energy stations were created between 2005-2019. Their wind energy capacity increased from 1 to 210 GW at that period of time. Moreover, their solar energy capacity also surged from 0.07 GW to 204 GW. China heavily subsidized renewable projects and they have purchased some portion of the outcome themselves to support this sector.



Source: IEA 2019 (Author)


This energy mix of China gives a lot of positive information regarding energy regulation. China is determined to decrease the share of coal and oil. As a result of, the share of renewables and natural gas has increased significantly over 18 years. 0,00% 10,00% 20,00% 30,00% 40,00% 50,00% 60,00% 70,00% 80,00% 90,00% 2000 2010 2018 The Energy Mix of China Nuclear Gas Coal Oil Hydro Renewables



EU has one of the most exemplary models in the world. The awareness of environment problem dates back to 1972. The need for a unitary environmental policy was stressed during European Council meeting in Paris. After 15 years, The Single European Act introduced a new “Environmental Title”. It was the first time that the preservation of environment, conservation of human health, the utilization of natural resources in rational ways were legalized. In 1990, European Environmental Agency was founded for the development, execution and the assessment of all taken environmental policies. Furthermore, this organization provides information to both EU and non-EU members on environmental matters. Environment has become an official area after the ratification of Maastricht Treaty in 1993. In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection was integrated in all EU sectoral policies in Treaty of Amsterdam which was signed in 1999. An important breakthrough was achieved when EU governance bodies introduced serious enforcement measures in 2001. European Parliament and the Council validated certain minimum environmental standards. Also, member states were called to adopt effective and criminal measures for the parties who break environmental law severely. Afterwards, combatting climate change was one of the major issues which was drafted in Treaty of Lisbon. As a result of it, EU can conclude international agreement with third parties as a legal personality. 1 European Union has been one of the most vocal advocates for the transition from conventional energy sources to renewables. In the recent years, they have accepted certain measures to accelerate this process. Furthermore, Lisbon Treaty urges EU countries to act in solidarity when it comes to energy issues. 2006 European Union Green Paper which aimed not only to “complete the internal European gas and electricity markets, to create solidarity between member states in order to enhance a more sustainable, efficient and diverse energy mix and to create an integrated approach to tackle climate change” but also to “establish a strategic European energy technology plan and a coherent external energy policy (Haghighi, 2007, p.172).” In 2015, Energy Union was founded in EU to address energy issues. The Union is committed to develop a sustainable, competitive, secure and decarbonized energy system. EU calls all the countries to follow a similar path and to make energy decisions in unison. The main purpose is to 1 See for more information on the evolution of EU’s environmental policy. address energy and environmental challenges together, as separate efforts were not satisfactory enough. The Energy Union created the energy and climate policy framework for 2030 to establish ambitious Union commitments to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % by 2030 when compared with 1990, to increase the proportion of consumption of renewable energy, and to make energy savings in accordance with Union level ambitions, improving the Union’s energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council (1) as amended by Directive (EU) 2018/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council (2), establishes an energy efficiency headline target of at least 32,5 % savings at Union level by 2030 (Official Journal of European Union, 2018). Directive (EU) 2018/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council (3) sets a binding target of at least 32 % energy from renewable sources at Union level by 2030 (Official Journal of European Union, 2018). In terms of energy efficiency, EU has determined its energy efficiency targets by reducing their energy consumption by 20 % until 2020 and by 27 % until 2030. EU’s energy policies are also aimed on decreasing in greenhouse carbon emissions. European Parliament called countries to achieve 55 % reductions by 2030, as they aim to be carbon-free by 2050.



Source: Eurostat 2020 (Author)


Here, we can see the situation of energy mix in 2009 and in 2018 in EU. Crude oil and natural gas together consisted of more than half of total energy consumption at both intervals. Even though there are certain changes, there was not a dramatic difference in terms of the composition of energy sources. One of the biggest changes was in the increase of renewables and biofuels, as the proportion of this energy source has surged from 9 percent to 14 percent. There was a very slight decrease in the consumption of oil and natural gas. This factor clearly indicates that the countries in Solid fuel fossils; 15% Coking coal; 2% Natural gas; 24% Crude oil; 36% Renewables and biofuels; 9% Nuclear heat; 13% ENERGY MIX IN EU IN 2009 Solid fuel fossils; 13% Coking coal; 2% Natural gas; 23% Crude oil; 35% Renewables and biofuels; 14% Nuclear heat; 12% ENERGY MIX IN EU IN 2018 EU has already initiated the transition from conventional energy sources to renewables. We can derive a conclusion that the proportion of renewables will continue to increase, since the environmental challenges urge countries to accelerate this process.



Source: Eurostat 2020 (Author)


This line chart demonstrates the consumption of different energy sources over a decade in EU. The most used energy is crude oil, however there has been a decrease in the usage of it. Other energy sources have also been consumed less, except renewables and biofuels. The biggest shrinkage has been experienced in the utilization of solid fuel fossils by 19 percent. There has been increase only in the consumption of renewables and it has rose by 33 percent.



Environmental indexes are useful to analyze to what extent countries achieve their environmental targets. Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is one of the most comprehensive indicators which give fair assessment of environmental situation of the countries. All EU countries are situated among first 42 countries in the world. Denmark (82.5), Luxembourg (82.3) and UK (81.3) have highest EPI among the countries of EU, whereas Latvia (61.6), Poland (60.9) and Bulgaria (57) have the lowest. Croatia has the highest EPI change in 10 years with 13.4. The lowest EPI change was observed in Poland and Italy with 1.1. Overall, the average EPI of whole EU was 71.05 and the overall change of EPI was 5.36. China also improved its EPI significantly. Their current EPI is 37.3 and their EPI change is 8.4. Currently, China resides in 120th place in this category, however they continue to rise steadily (Wendling et al, 2020). 2 . So, we can derive this conclusion that both policies are effective and they are generating results. Also, EU and China have stepped up their cooperation on environmental matters. Since 2005, they have strong partnership which put basis on a high-level political framework for cooperation and dialogue.3 In 2018, they have reconfirmed their intention on fulfilling their obligations which they have agreed on Paris Agreement and strengthening joint cooperation. There have been several dialogues between European and Chinese experts on scenario modelling. Even though, both environmental models have certain similar characteristics, there are stark differences. In China, state plays a very important role and usually they achieve their targets with strong enforcement, punitive measures in short-term. However, their approach and determination generate results. EU governance bodies accept their policies for reasonable time periods and sometimes they fail to enforce adequately to achieve those targets. Moreover, they accept their policies after taking consideration the views of each member state unlike China. We can conclude that both environmental models were mixed success. Given these successes and achievements, it is expected that both EU and China will reach to carbon emission targets which are specified in Paris agreement by 2030. However, they should continue their environmental efforts, since fossil fuels still consist of their largest portion of energy mix and the environment is polluted enormously. However, their determination provides certain hope for the future. This is utterly important, given the fact their success puts shadow on the decision of withdrawal of USA from Paris Agreement.



  1.  Directive (EU) 2018/2001 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2018 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. (2018). Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved from
  2. DIRECTIVE (EU) 2018/2002 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2018 amending Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency. 2 See for more information on EPI performance of the countries
  3. See for more information on the cooperation between EU and China on environmental matters (2018). Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved from 3) European Commission. (n.d.). Cooperation with non-EU countries & regions – China. Retrieved from
  4. European Parliament. (2019, November). Environment policy: General principles and basic framework. Retrieved from
  5. Eurostat. (2020). Final Energy Consumption by Product. Retrieved from
  6. International Energy Agency. (2020, October). Distribution of generation in China, 2000- 2020, and projections up to 2040 in the Sustainable Development Scenario. Retrieved from 2020-and-projections-up-to-2040-in-the-sustainable-development-scenario
  7. Haghighi, S. S. (2007). Energy security: The external legal relations of the European Union with major oil and gas supplying countries. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  8. Hove, A. (2020, August). Trends and Contradictions in China’s Renewable Energy Policy. Retrieved from
  9. Tianjie, M. (2019, November). How green is China? Retrieved from
  10. Wendling, Z. A., Emerson, J. W., de Sherbinin, A., Esty, D. C., et al. (2020). 2020 Environmental Performance Index. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.


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