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- China has a long term target to reduce the carbon intensity of the economy by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2020
- China also has binding targets to reduce energy intensity by 16% from 2010 levels by 2015 and carbon intensity by 17% from 2010 levels by 2015
- China has a target to reduce coal consumption as a percentage of primary energy to below 65% by 2017
- China has ambitious targets for renewable energy in 2015 and 2020
When Tianjin launched its carbon emission trading scheme (ETS) on Dec 26th 2013, it became the fifth ETS operating in China, following Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong. Now that five of seven pilots have started trading and the rest are expected to start in 2014, the aggregate of all emissions regulated in China through the seven pilots will be the second largest in the world, following only the European Union.
- A U.S.-Chinese team led by the Harvard China Project has developed a comprehensive framework for evaluating the economic and environmental costs and benefits of national policies to control air pollution and CO2 emissions in China.
- Contrary to some perceptions of Chinese inaction on air pollution, China’s SO2 control policy of 2006-2010 may have been one of the most swiftly successful air pollution policies on record judged by key criteria: sulfur emissions fell sharply and prevented as many as 74,000 premature deaths from fine particle (PM2.5) air pollution in 2010 alone, all at little economic cost.
- Looking to the future, a modest tax on carbon dioxide, starting small and rising to about $6.50 per ton in 2020 (in 2007 dollars), could lead to a 19% reduction in China’s CO2 emissions in 2020 compared to a scenario with no tax, with little effect on GDP growth and consumption over the long run.
- Such a carbon tax would also deliver powerful ancillary benefits: reduced concentrations of an array of domestic air pollutants and prevention of as many as 89,000 premature deaths a year by 2020.
This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.
Confronted with a cooling economy and global headlines declaring an “Airpocalypse”, China faces challenges on multiple fronts. While many people are quick to point out the hurdles, the reality is that its leaders are moving ahead with significant policy measures and reforms. If successful, these actions will not only help drive China’s economic development, they will address another mounting threat: climate change.
Last week, China’s leadership met at the Third Plenum of the Central Committee to outline major reforms China will undertake over the next decade. While China faces multiple challenges, reforms related to greater environmental protection and low-carbon development were high on the agenda. China’s leaders understand the challenges and are taking actions that can have significant impact.
When I went back to China this summer after my first year living outside of China in a decade I was not sure what I would find. The US press reporting on Chinese pollution had been so uniformly negative that I was not sure if somehow immediately after I left Beijing the improvements that had been taking place since the 11th Five Year Plan began in 2006 had suddenly stalled. What I found was quite to the contrary – new regulations that come into effect in 2014 are driving massive upgrades of the power sector and transforming the energy supply in central cities.
It is common knowledge that China burns a large amount of coal, with the fuel accounting for nearly 70% of China’s primary energy consumption in recent years. What is less commonly known is that China is also working on ways to reduce the impact of its coal use, including aggressively pursuing research and demonstration of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology.