On Tuesday, China released long-awaited final greenhouse gas targets as part of its submission to the United Nations climate talks in Paris later this year.
Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, said in a statement the country “will work hard” to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030, which was its previous commitment as part of the United States-China joint pledge from November 2014, the first time China had agreed to mitigate emissions.
The statement also said that China will cut its carbon intensity, or greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP, by 60-65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, a large increase from its 40-45 percent goal for 2020.
Stian Reklev at Carbon Pulse writes that this commitment is on the “lower end of expectations, as China is estimated to be on track to overachieve its current target of reducing its carbon intensity.”
“China has already achieved a 33 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of its booming economy since 2005, and last month the government ordered its manufacturers to cut current levels by a further 40 percent by 2025,” writes Reklev.
The statement also reaffirms China’s goal of increasing non-fossil fuel sources of energy consumption to about 20 percent by 2030.
“China’s climate action plan reaffirms its commitment to pursue a lower-carbon development pathway driven by domestic interests,” Nick Mabey, CEO and Founding Director of E3G, a sustainable development non-profit, said in a statement. “But it can do more. It must now integrate climate change actions into its ambitious development and economic reforms.”
While these are not bold new targets, they are of critical importance to the international negotiations surrounding the climate talks at the end of the year in which leaders hope to establish a post-2020 agreement that applies to all nations. China is the world’s second largest economy and biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and no deal would be achievable without their cooperation.
With China officially submitting its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC, the world’s three largest carbon polluters, including the United States and the European Union, have all made commitments ahead of the Paris Summit. The United States plans to to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and to make its best efforts to reduce by them by 28 percent. EU leaders have agreed to a 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 40 percent compared to 1990.
Even small decreases in China’s emissions seem like monumental feats when compared to other countries. According to a recent analysis, in the first four months of 2015, China’s coal use fell almost 8 percent compared to the same period last year — a reduction in emissions that’s approximately equal to the total carbon dioxide emissions of the U.K. over the same period.
Late last year the government announced it plans to cap coal use by 2020, a necessary target to meet its global pledge of peaking greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Reducing its use of coal, which still generates three-fourths of China’s electricity, is also a key element of China’s renewable energy target of 20 percent non-fossil fuels in “primary energy consumption by 2030.”
China is also the leading renewable energy investor, spending some $89.5 billion last year on clean energy, almost a third of the global total.
“China’s climate targets signal its commitment to deepening the energy efficiency and clean energy efforts it began a decade ago, which have resulted in China becoming the largest wind power country in the world and being on track to pass Germany this year as the largest solar PV country in the world,” said Fuqiang Yang, Energy, Environment and Climate Change senior adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council in a statement.