Energy and Emissions Data
Clayton Munnings is a Research Associate at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington DC. Clayton’s research focuses on the use of market-based instruments to reduce carbon emissions in developed and developing countries, including China. Clayton holds a BS in Science of Natural and Environmental Systems with a concentration in Environmental and Resource Economics from Cornell University.
Resources for the Future
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.
China’s chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, held a press conference Friday and made statements that may preview China’s approach to the UN Climate Summit on September 23rd.
Valerie J. Karplus is an Assistant Professor in the Global Economics and Management Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Director of the China Energy and Climate Project (CECP) at MIT.
Her research focuses on resource and environmental management in firms operating in diverse national and industry contexts, with an emphasis on emerging markets and the role of policy. Dr. Karplus is an expert on China’s energy system, including technology trends, energy system governance, and the sustainability impact of business decisions. She leads the China Energy and Climate Project at MIT, an international collaborative team of researchers principally from MIT and Tsinghua University focused on China’s role in global energy markets and climate change mitigation.
Dr. Karplus has previously worked in the development policy section of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, Germany, as a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow, and in the biotechnology industry in Beijing, China, as a Luce Scholar and employee of the National Institute for Biological Sciences, Beijing.
She holds a BS in biochemistry and political science from Yale University and a PhD in engineering systems from MIT.
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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, 2017, and 2020
- Currently, China gets about 9% 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% in 2015 and 15% in 2020.
- Hydropower: China currently has the largest hydropower capacity in the world, with about 229 gigawatts (GW) currently, and a target of 290 GW for 2015.
- Wind Power: China ranks 1st in the world in installed wind power capacity, with about 89 GW. China is also the world’s fastest-growing installer of wind, and it aims to have 100 GW of wind installed by 2015.
- Solar: China is also attempting to dramatically scale up solar power, planning to have at least 35 GW of installed solar by 2015, and currently has around 19 GW installed.
- Investment: China was the number one investor in renewable energy in 2013, accounting for nearly a fifth of global investment.
Amidst headlines detailing off-the-charts air pollution in Beijing, it may come as a surprise that China’s latest environmental scorecard does boast bright spots. The 2014 Yale Environmental Performance Index (EPI) – a biennial global ranking of how well countries perform on a range of critical environmental issues – ranks China at 118 out of 178 countries. With respect to other emerging economies with rapid growth and development, China does not fare as well overall as Brazil (77th), Russia (73rd), or South Africa (72th), but is considerably ahead of India, which ranked 155th. However, China is a leader in addressing climate change and is taking corrective action to address weaknesses.
- 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.
Summary of key information on China’s actions on climate and clean energy and the implications for the United States.
- Currently, China gets about 9% of its total primary energy from non-fossil sources. Official targets aim to increase that share to at least 11.4 % in 2015 and 15% in 2020.
- Solar Power: China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of solar cells (PVs).