China has unveiled details of its national climate plan that maps out how the world’s largest emitter will peak GHG emissions by 2030 or earlier
China will today map out how the world’s largest emitter will try and peak greenhouse emissions by 2030 or before, details that could have a major bearing on UN climate talks aimed at delivering a deal in Paris later this year.
China “will work hard” to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030, Premier Li Keqiang said at a summit meeting with the French government in Paris.
Li unveiled that China plans to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy 60-65% per unit of GDP by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, and reiterated a previously-announced aim that renewables should make up 20% of its primary energy supply by the same date.
The document to be submitted to the UN – known as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – will be mostly made up of existing policies and announcements, including last year’s promise to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
China has already achieved a 33.8% cut in carbon intensity on 2005 levels, Premier Li said earlier in June, but details of the climate plan released today provide few clues on how fast emissions will fall after an emissions peak.
Even though much of China’s climate plan is made up of previously-announced policies related to energy use, it means the world’s three highest emitting economies – China, US, and the EU – have published the climate action targets they are prepared to commit to under a new Paris Agreement.
China’s plan, which by 1445 BST wasn’t yet on the website of the UN’s climate arm, will highlight an unprecedented roll-out of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, shutdowns of coal-fired power plants and energy-guzzling factories, and a switch to cleaner-burning gas.
But the document is likely to be much less forthright on the pathway for emissions cuts after 2030 and whether the country can, or will, drive down its emissions at a rate that would help the world avoid runaway climate change.
Analysts of China’s climate policy will also be looking out for details on how China plans to curb emissions of non-CO2 gases (such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons) – which now outstrip the total GHG emissions of countries like Japan and Brazil.
Commentators point out that China’s action on climate change is driven by genuine self-interest and is part of the government’s reform agenda, outlined in the Five-Year Plan, to restructure the Chinese economy, and address concerns about air pollution, energy security, and the adverse impacts of climate change.
Based on the 20% non-fossil fuel commitment in the INDC, China will have to build an additional 800-1,000 GW of zero-emission generation capacity by 2030 – about the same as the country’s current coal-fired capacity and nearly as much as the total current installed capacity in the US energy sector.
Meeting climate reduction goals in the INDC will cost China over US$6.6 trillion (41 trillion yuan), the country’s lead negotiator at UN climate talks said last week at a meeting with US counterparts, placing a heavy burden on energy-intensive industries but also providing huge economic benefits to sectors such as renewables, energy efficient equipment, environmental technologies, low-carbon vehicles and power grid infrastructure.
Following the publication of the INDC, other large emitters such as the US and the EU are likely to crank up the pressure on China to set up a robust rules-based system through common accounting rules and reporting requirements, something that the central government in Beijing has rejected so far.
The article was first published in chinadialogue.