Renewables and Alternative Energy

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

This post updates a previous fact sheet in order to include information on prospects for a peak in China’s carbon dioxide emissions. [See third question.]

Key Questions:

  • Q: Is it true that China is not doing anything to address climate change?
    A: No, it is not true. China is taking action on multiple fronts to address the climate problem.
  • Q: Is it true that China’s coal use and greenhouse gas emissions are inevitably going to continue to rise throughout the 21st century regardless of what China tries to do?
    A: No. China’s carbon emissions and coal use rose significantly in the 2000s, but have begun slowing down in recent years.
  • Q:What are the signs that China’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak?
  • Q: Does it make sense for the U.S. to take climate action given what we know about China’s next steps on climate?
    A: Yes. China is now at a turning point regarding air quality and climate action.

Mackay Miller

Mackay Miller is a Senior Research Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, USA, where he manages international collaborations with China, Mexico, India, and South Africa. His areas of focus include grid integration of renewable energy, smart grid deployment, and policy and regulatory issues across the clean energy spectrum. He coordinates several bilateral and multilateral initiatives including the US-China Renewable Energy Partnership and 21st Century Power Partnership. He also leads NREL support for the International Smart Grid Action Network and coordinates the Clean Energy Regulators Initiative. His recent publications include “Flexibility in 21st Century Power Systems,” “Market Evolution: Wholesale Electricity Market Design for 21st Century Power Systems” and “RES-E-NEXT: Next Generation RES-E Policy.” He holds an MBA from the University of Colorado, and a BA in International Relations from Brown University.

Contact Info: 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Mackay.Miller@nrel.gov

303-384-7536

China's Climate and Energy Policies: Looking for the Best New Initiatives

Key Points:

  • China has been experimenting with many different policies to control carbon and energy intensity
  • By updating building codes to international best practices, China could save in 20 years an equivalent of the amount of CO2 that would be emitted by 15 large coal fired power plants over 20 years.
  • If China continues to improve fuel efficiency standards at its current rate, it will save the equivalent of the amount of CO2 that would be emitted by 10 large coal fired power plants over 20 years.
  • By expanding from pilots to a national level policy, the use of environmental priorities in selecting what electricity sources to use to respond to increased demand could significantly reduce coal use in the power sector.

ChinaFAQs: What Are China's National Climate and Energy Targets?

Key Points:

  • 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

ChinaFAQs: Renewable Energy In China: A Graphical Overview of 2013

Key Points:

  • 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.

How U.S.-China Cooperation Can Expand Clean Energy Development

This post originally appeared on WRI’s Insights blog:

One year ago, the United States and China declared in their Joint Statement on Climate Change that “forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China—including large-scale cooperative action—is more critical than ever. Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.”

China’s performance on the 2014 Environmental Performance Index: What are the key takeaways?

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.

Panel: China’s Clean Energy Challenges

In a panel at the Brookings Institution moderated by ChinaFAQs expert Kenneth Lieberthal, ChinaFAQs experts Sarah Forbes, Kelly Sims Gallagher, and Jane Nakano discussed the challenges and prospects for China’s clean energy future. Sarah Forbes discussed China’s natural gas sector, focusing especially on shale gas. Kelly Sims Gallagher discussed China’s coal sector and the potential of carbon capture and storage technologies. Jane Nakano discussed China’s nuclear energy future.

For the full transcript and a recording of the panel see: “China’s Clean Energy Challenges

China's New Clean Air Action Plan

China has recently announced a plan to tackle air pollution across the country. The plan includes setting regional targets on coal use and taking high-polluting vehicles from the streets. The plan also sets target levels for regional atmospheric pollution, with particular attention paid to reducing particulate matter, which is an especially severe problem in China.

ChinaFAQs — Short Take

Library File: 

Summary of key information on China’s actions on climate and clean energy and the implications for the United States.