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China to cut emissions intensity by 60-65% from 2005 level by 2030: INDC

Date
30 June 2015
China to cut emissions intensity by 60-65% from 2005 level by 2030: INDC

Update: China's INDC has been officially submitted to the UNFCCC portal

BEIJING: China will cut its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 level by 2030, aiming to increase non-fossil fuel sources in primary energy consumption to about 20% by the same date. However, China “will work hard” to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030, Prime Minister Li Keqiang revealed.

The commitment comes in the much-awaited Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) that China presented today ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris (COP21), where a global climate deal is expected to be agreed which will come into force by 2025.

“It is very positive to see China publicly stating its goals and signaling its commitment to the climate negotiations process in this way”, says Mark KenberCEO of The Climate Group. “It is clear that China’s plan to tackle carbon emissions and build an economy on renewables and clean technology is firmly embedded at the highest level of government. We hope that India, Brazil and others will soon follow and show the required level of ambition.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms last year’s announcement in terms of 2030 as the peak date for emissions, while the 60-65% intensity reduction figure builds on the previous 40-45% by 2020. This certainly represents a step forward. There are a number of studies that have shown China could peak emissions before 2030. China’s internal prioritization of carbon pollution means there is a high degree of confidence that they will meet, if not exceed, their target.

“With today’s announcement, we now have China, the US and the EU committed to a low carbon transition of its economy. There is real momentum now for a good deal at Paris, although we are still short of the 2 degree target and more ambition is needed.”

Changhua WuGreater China Director, The Climate Group comments: "China’s INDC is a positive boost to the ongoing international climate change process leading to Paris. China’s efforts to align its domestic growth agenda and global climate change agenda is a leading example of how a fundamental shift is needed to grow the economy differently.

“While experimentation in China over the last decade has not been an easy journey, political leadership and determination has set the world’s largest developing economy on track toward a more sustainable future. Securing an ecological civilization requires deeper commitment to a balanced relationship between nature and humans. I applaud China’s efforts and commitments.”

A TWO-FACED COIN

Today China is the world’s biggest polluter, accounting for nearly 11,000 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2012, 25.36% of global emissions – almost double that of the US, which totals 6,200 MtCO2e (14.4% of the total).

China’s pollution is a consequence of rapid economic growth based on coal, which still counts for two-thirds of its energy mix. But declining air quality in the country’s biggest cities has driven climate action from policymakers. Speaking recently at the China's National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang defined air pollution as a “blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts.”

Renewed political was kick-started last year with China’s historic announcement to ‘peak’ its greenhouse gas emissions and start cutting pollution by 2030. Now, the INDC is set to accelerate the country’s ongoing transition from an economy based on fossil fuels to a healthier society built on clean energy.China is currently the world’s biggest investor in clean energy, spending a record US$89.5 billion last year to account for almost 29% of the world’s total renewables investment.

This growth is already having an impact, with the National Bureau of Statistics of China reporting that in 2014 coal consumption fell 2.9% even while its total energy consumption grew, thanks to a 16.9% share from clean energy including wind and hydro.

The INDC however, pushes China’s clean energy and emissions reduction aspirations even further, calling for all countries to collaborate for the common goal. China has also proposed a guarantee mechanism to assess those INDCs and continuously enhance the effort for a cleaner, better world.

COMMON BUT DIFFERENTIATED

China hasn’t always been the world’s biggest emitter. From the beginning of the Industrial Era, the US emitted four times more CO2 than China on a cumulative basis, as the below graph from the World Resource Institute shows:

China-US

For this reason, during climate negotiations China has always been a fierce advocate of the “common but differentiated responsibilities”, a principle agreed in the Kyoto protocol in 1997 which calls for developed countries to take on more ambitious and quantified commitments than developing countries. 

Today though, this issue is controversial because China’s unprecedented economic expansion pushes it out of the ‘developing country’ list. If we consider emissions from 1990 to today, China has almost caught up with the US total.

But China insists its commitment is fair and comprehensive. Xie Zhenhua, former Chinese Minister on Climate Change and now the Climate Special Envoy, said at a recent conference: “Our INDC target is scientifically based, and also pragmatic that is backed up by specific policy measures and actions. I am confident that our INDC targets are aggressive.”

COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT

INDCs submitted so far represent a wide range of ambition, but experts believe bolder targets are needed across the board. The International Energy Agency has already warned that INDCs submitted “will have a positive impact on future energy trends, but fall short of the major course correction required to meet the 2 Celsius degrees goal.”

In order to achieve its own set INDC targets, China needs to invest 41 trillion RMB (US$6.6 trillion). As Mark Kenber pointed out in a recent blog, even though COP21 in Paris is “the great business opportunity of this century,” at the same time: “it will not be the end. The climate change agenda post Paris will live on, and important work will still need to be done until the deal set in Paris comes into force in 2020.”

Chinese companies are being given an immediate opportunity to respond to the INDC and demonstrate climate leadership by taking part in the roll out of RE100 in China - a global initiative to engage, showcase and support influential companies committed to 100% renewable power.

On Thursday, July 2, RE100 will launch a capacity building program in Beijing, led by The Climate Group in partnership with the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA), designed to encourage Chinese companies to begin their RE100 journeys and develop strategies for reaching 100% renewable power. Influential businesses from a range of sectors are taking part.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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