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Climate change is a “serious threat” for China, official says

Date
23 March 2015
Climate change is a “serious threat” for China, official says

BEIJING: Climate change is a “serious threat” and could have “huge impacts” on China, Zheng Guoguang, head of the national meteorological administration, warned yesterday.

The unprecedented official admission follows China’s increasing concern about developing a sustainable progress, due to the challenges faced by the country's rapid economic development, which is heavily based on fossil-fueled energy. The government recently incorporated the concept of ‘Ecological Progress in its planning, aiming to curb the country’s record levels of pollution, consumption and resource imports.

This concept will fundamentally impact China’s low carbon development,” underlines Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. “It is a value system for balancing ecosystems while delivering goods and services to support human development.

“Climate change poses serious threats to the country’s pursuit of a sustainable development. While the government has a crucial role to play in both mitigation and adaptation, the business community has to work side by side with the civil society to take actions,” she added.

“The Chinese government has set clear policy targets to put today’s world’s second largest economy on the right track towards a low carbon and greener future. We work closely with business leaders to innovate and capture the biggest opportunities in the low carbon economy. In the meantime, we know how important it is to have the public together with governments and businesses to enhance the strongest demand for a clean energy future.”

“We are proud to be the international strategic partner of 'Handle the Climate Change Filming Campaign', which has been launched this week. We will help leading documentary directors and producers to join hands with the scientific community to inform the public about what needs to be done to tackle climate change.”

A grave risk

Zheng Guoguang confirms such a trend, pushing China to shift toward a low carbon development path, the Agence France Press reports. “As the world warms, risks of climate change and climate disasters to China could become graver,” he said – even if he considers the potential for solar and wind in the country to be “limited”.

However, solar and wind power are booming in the country. China is the leading nation for solar photovoltaic installations, with about 30 gigawatts (GW) of capacity and a plan of an additional 15 GW of power by the end of this year.

The nation remains the biggest market for wind in 2015, with installations rising to a record 38% compared to the previous year – adding 20.7 GW, Bloomberg reports. China reached 92 GW of wind energy capacity in 2013, with an annual increase of 24%.

But China is also currently the biggest CO₂ emitter in the world. According to the European Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research figures, China emitted 10.3 billion tons CO₂ in 2013, or 29% of total global emissions. The US, the second bigger emitter, reached 5.3 billion tons CO₂, 15% of the total.

However, the Chinese per capita CO₂ level was 7.4 tons CO₂/cap, less than half of the US and Saudi Arabia (16.6 tons CO₂/cap) or Australia (16.9 tons CO₂/cap). At the same time, when considering the cumulative historical CO₂ emissions, the proportion between China and US is inverted: the US emitted 361,300 MtCO₂ from 1850 – the beginning of the Industrial Revolution – to 2011, according to the World Resource Institute database; on the other hand, China emitted less than half – 140,860 MtCO₂.

Image: Interactive infographic on the history of carbon dioxide emissions, courtesy of the World Resource Institute and Kiln.

Zheng Guoguang’s comment comes just days after the US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern marked the collaboration between the two nations on climate change as “closer than ever before”.

In fact, the US and China announced a game-changing climate deal last November. The US pledged to reduce CO₂ emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, with a further 80% reduction by 2050. China, for the first time, set 2030 as the target year to start peaking its emissions – vowing to increase its share of non-fossil energy to around 20% by that time.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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