Q: How have the joint U.S.-China announcements helped create momentum for global climate action?
Q: Is it true that under its new commitments, 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 commitments, or has it already taken steps in this direction? A: China is already taking action to strengthen all of the building blocks of its strategy to shift to low-carbon energy.
Q: Do we have reason to believe that China will follow through on its commitments? A: Yes. China has already made progress on its energy and emissions targets and has strong reasons of national interest to build on its current efforts.
Q: What is the benefit of the U.S. and China, and many other countries, taking action together? A: With countries acting together, each can have confidence its actions are part of a global effort to address climate change.
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.
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.
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.
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
Investment: China was
the number one investor in
renewable energy in 2013,
accounting for nearly a fifth of
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.