China’s labyrinth: cutting emissions and sustaining economic advancement

Beijing, Nov 4 (EFE) .- The struggle between maintaining a high economic growth rate and sharply cutting carbon dioxide emissions make the environmental objectives of China, the most polluting country in the world, a complicated juggling exercise.

China’s plans aim to reach peak CO2 emissions by 2030, and emissions neutrality by 2060, as well as a reduction in carbon intensity of more than 65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Likewise, 2030 would be the date by which Beijing aspires to ensure non-fossil fuels provide 25 percent of the energy generated in the country, in which coal is the major source at about 60 percent.

However, according to Li Shuo, climate policy advisor for the Chinese branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace, it may be too late by 2030.

“The big long-term goals are a step that we see with good eyes, but we are risking it in the coming years,” Li says. China needs to drastically reduce its addiction to coal this decade. The country should reach its emissions peak before 2025 and from there enter a decline period of (polluting emissions).”

Traditionally, rapid economic growth has gone hand in hand with cheap energy sources, such as coal, and China’s planned economy – with its rigorous annual growth targets – has left little room for the energy transition in the country.

In the last Chinese parliamentary session in March, authorities aimed to grow “above 6 percent” this year.

Added to this is the fact that, in this five-year plan (2021-2025), no detailed growth objective is established and there is talk of “maintaining growth within a reasonable range and proposing annual goals when appropriate.”

The target was about 6.5 percent in 2018 and 6.6 percent was achieved. The fact that – at least on paper – more rigid growth targets have been abandoned as in the past, could facilitate the transformation toward a cleaner economy, in line with the guidelines for a shift towards “high quality” growth.

The equation has currently been complicated by the ongoing energy crisis the country is facing because of the industry’s growing electricity demand, within the framework of the post-covid recovery, which has been accompanied by an extraordinary coal demand.

Data from China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, says coal mining reached 11.5 million tons per day since the end of October, almost 1.1 million more than at the end of September, which could serve to relax prices, but not its polluting impact.

“In the short term, the energy crisis will complicate (compliance with) China’s national contributions (presented to the UN),” Li Shuo, from environmental organization Greenpeace, told EFE. “But the Chinese government has recently introduced a new round of energy reforms … that will make renewables more competitive than coal in the medium and long term.”

However, sources in the nuclear energy sector point out that China’s energy transformation plans also include a strong commitment to this type of energy. EFE


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