Coal for Electricity

Stronger Commitments from China and US Are Breakthrough for International Climate Action

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.

China Announces Next Steps in Shift to Low-Carbon Path

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.”

Momentum For Paris Agreement Builds from U.S.-China Climate Change Pledges

With the U.S. release of its proposal for the international climate negotiations and proposals expected soon from other countries, the negotiations are intensifying. A key factor in this dynamic is China’s November commitment to peak its emissions and scale up non-fossil energy, which has shifted the global debate on climate action. China is already taking action on multiple fronts to meet its new goals.

Reports from China Suggest Low-Carbon Shift in 2014

Drawing on preliminary energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has estimated that China’s carbon dioxide emissions fell by 2 percent last year, the first reduction in over a decade. Other reports indicate China’s coal consumption also declined, by 2.9 percent, in 2014; and the share of non-fossil energy in China’s energy consumption rose last year, while coal fell as a percentage of the country’s energy mix. According to the International Energy Agency, even as the global economy grew by 3%, global energy-related carbon emissions did not rise in 2014, due to shifts in energy use in China and OECD countries.

Bloomberg article

International Energy Agency press release

Coal Limits and Possible Early Carbon Peak Previewed by China Climate and Energy Expert

Professor Qi Ye, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, commented at London-based think tank IPPR on his expectations for China’s upcoming 13th Five Year Plan, which will go into effect early next year. Profesor Qi expects the Chinese government to place a cap on CO2 emissions—consistent with the planned carbon market starting next year—and assign “absolute coal consumption caps” to more than the 30% of provinces presently covered. He also emphasized that China is making efforts to reach a peak in CO2 emissions earlier than its 2030 target. These comments come in the wake of reports that China’s coal consumption fell in 2014.

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Making Plans: Steps in Development of China's Crucial 13th Five Year Plan

ChinaFAQs expert Angel Hsu and her team at Yale’s Environmental Performance Measurement program have developed an interactive timeline that lays out the steps China is expected to take in developing, enacting and implementing its next Five Year Plan, which will orient the country’s economic and social policy. The 13th Five Year Plan will be announced in early 2016 and will be in place until the 14th Five Year Plan in 2021. The timeline provides details on dates, procedure, and stakeholder involvement for each stage of the process. Past plans have set targets relating to energy and carbon intensity, coal and energy consumption, energy efficiency, and clean energy development. The upcoming 13th Five Year Plan is likely to include additional measures to bend the curve of China’s greenhouse gas emissions downward, and will provide insight into how China will strive to meet its new climate targets for 2030.

To access the timeline, click here

Taking Stronger Action on Climate Change: China and the United States

Key Questions:

  • Q: What did the U.S. and China pledge in their November 11, 2014 joint announcement on climate change?
  • Q: Is it true that under its new pledges, China might avoid doing anything to address climate change until 2030?
    A: No. China will need to take stronger near-term action to meet its commitments and has begun to do so.
  • Q: Is China starting from scratch in trying to fulfill its pledges, or has it already taken steps in this direction?
    A: China is already taking action on multiple fronts to address the climate problem.
  • Q: Do we have reason to believe that China will follow through on its pledges?
    A: Yes. China has already made progress on the low carbon building blocks and has strong reasons of national interest to build on its current efforts.
  • Q: Does it make sense for the U.S. to pursue vigorous action on climate change given China’s commitments?
    A: Yes. China is now at a turning point regarding air quality and climate action, and the two countries can inspire each other and the world to take ambitious steps.

China Tries to Come to Grips with Pollution

China’s “New Long March” through the UN Climate Summit: Context and Opportunities

This post originally appeared on WRI’s Insights blog:

The Long March was a watershed moment in Chinese history—the moment Mao Zedong’s nascent Communist Party escaped disaster in 1934 en route to forming a new nation. Fast forward 80 years, and China is poised to embark on a new Long March – but this time away from climate change and environmental damage toward a sustainable future.

Cleaning China's Smoggy Skies: China Released Draft Air Pollution Law Amendments for Public Comment

This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard Blog:

Though a burst of clear skies on Monday allowed Beijingers to marvel at a magnificent Mid-Autumn Festival moon, a blanket of smog choked the capital the next morning, reminding citizens of China’s grave air pollution woes.