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With the current climate negotiations reaching a conclusion in Paris this coming December, we are at a pivotal moment in the global effort to address climate change and shift to a low-carbon development path. The United States and China, which together make up 38 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (as of 2012), are playing an important role.
Yet there has been confusion about China’s climate action commitments, as well as the fact that both China and the U.S. are taking significant action. Here’s a look at China’s progress to date, and what implications it has for international climate action.
- As of 2014, China got 11.2% of its total primary energy from non-fossil sources. Official targets aim to increase the share of primary energy from non-fossil sources to at least 11.4% by the end of 2015 and 15% in 2020. China’s contribution to the anticipated international climate agreement includes a target to increase the non-fossil share to around 20% by 2030.
- Wind Power: China ranks first in the world in installed wind power capacity, with about 110 GW by the end of 2014. China is also the world’s fastest growing installer of wind power, and it aims to have 200 GW installed by 2020.
- Solar Power: China had nearly 33 GW of solar power capacity installed by the end of 2014, and is attempting to dramatically scale up, planning to install an additional 17.8 GW of solar projects in 2015 and a total of 100 GW by 2020.
- Investment: China was the number one investor in renewable energy in 2014, accounting for nearly a third of global investment.
As China unveiled its contribution (“INDC”) to the international climate negotiations, affirming the pledges it made in its joint announcement with the U.S. in November, a spokesman for Christian Aid, Mohamed Adow, said, “The pledge marks a significant shift away from a fossil fuel-intensive development path to one focused on renewables on a scale the world has never yet seen.” Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute called it “a serious and credible” effort, and said “China’s commitment was made possible by its ambitious clean energy policies and investments enacted over the past decade.”
For the full briefing notice including speakers, topics, and the video recording, click here
At this week’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., the two countries built on their robust cooperation on climate change and clean energy. The U.S. and China pledged to work together to address obstacles to an “ambitious global climate agreement” at this December’s Conference of the Parties in Paris. They also agreed to continue to discuss each country’s post-2020 plans, and announced a new dialogue on domestic policy. The countries highlighted their progress on the initiatives they jointly announced in November, such as phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and expanding the Clean Energy Research Center (CERC).
- The U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership (USCREP) aims to advance the viability of renewable energy by addressing barriers to deployment and grid integration.
- The USCREP promotes policy, planning, and coordination for renewable energy; supports efficient grid integration for renewable generation; participates in efforts to develop international standards for the quality of wind and solar technology; and promotes the deployment of distributed solar generation and concentrated solar power.
- Opportunities for U.S. clean technologies through USCREP-fostered cooperation lead to potential job creation and expanding exports.
Given last November’s historic joint climate announcement, much anticipation has been focused on the contributions of the United States and China towards December’s Paris climate deal. At the end of March, the United States announced its intended nationally-determined contribution (INDC), and China is expected to release the details of its pledge in the next few months. Already, there is concern that the country submissions are behind and that they will not be sufficient to narrow the emissions gap sufficiently after 2020 to contain global temperature rise. That countries might submit less ambitious commitments is a serious concern, as the Climate Action Tracker has said about Japan’s prospective commitments, for example. Either way, the reductions needed to avoid dangerous climate change are so substantial that additional “cycles of action” are needed both at the upcoming Paris Summit and beyond.
This op-ed originally appeared on The Hill’s Congress Blog:
When U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced major targets to combat climate change last November, they did more than chart an ambitious course for their two countries. The leaders of the world’s two biggest economies – which are also the planet’s two biggest energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters – showed a way forward for U.S. bilateral cooperation with other countries on energy and climate.