Momentum grows as China offers its climate plan

Intro

Hours ago, China added to the global momentum for climate action by delivering a bigger than expected offer to this year’s international negotiating process. China committed to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030 and has emphasized a desire to meet that target date even sooner. China also committed to boost its clean energy output and forestry volume. Although details about how much the nation’s emissions will peak are yet to be defined, the world’s most populous nation has also delivered stronger than expected language about its carbon pollution, saying it expects to reduce its carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent from 2005 levels. This strong signal from China adds to diverse and widespread calls for climate action. In the last 30 days the world has seen the Pope’s moral call for an end to fossil fuels, the Dutch government ordered to cut carbon emissions, a G7 announcement to decarbonise totally this century and a report comprehensively showing that taking on climate change is our biggest health opportunity. Driven by the government’s economic structural reform, public concerns about air pollution and energy security, and growing evidence of global warming-driven extreme weather impacts, China has put itself on a path to a major shift away from dirty fuels and from the business-as-usual pathway. Considering China’s use of coal is plummeting and its renewable sector is soaring to record growth, China’s world leading clean energy transition, remains poised to accelerate given it makes absolute sense on economic, environmental, health and climate grounds. Today’s announcement should give rich countries incentives to deliver their pledged US$100 billion to help poor countries cope with climate change, and should also be a call for laggards like like Canada, Japan Australia and members of the US Congress to stop using China as an excuse for inaction, and to get on with the transition to a clean future.

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MT @MartinKaiserGP: #china #indc first step for more active role For success #COP21 all #China #US #EU need to up their game http://bit.ly/1BTU5T5  #climate

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Key Points

  • China’s announcement reveals a major structural shift to a clean energy future. China has committed to peak carbon emissions by around 2030, to boost its non-fossil fuels in the primary energy mix to about 20 per cent by 2030, and to reduce its carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent from 2005 levels, which moves the country significantly away from business-as-usual pathway compared to IEA benchmarks. The announcement is a further blow for a coal sector already in terminal decline, and a sign that China is not about to relinquish its position as a world leader in renewable energy capacity any time soon.
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  • China is ready to reap the huge economic, health and environment benefits of climate action. China already has more green jobs and cleaner air as a result of its coal cap and renewables development. By lodging this relatively ambitious climate offer, China – like the EU, the US and Mexico – is intending to secure these benefits for now and future generations, providing it upholds its pledge.
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  • As the world moves towards a clean and safe future, climate laggards risk political isolation and put public health and their economies at risk. Today we also see Serbia, Iceland and South Korea putting their climate pledges on the table, and the US and Brazil offering stronger climate actions. With China and the EU stating they will “work together” to reach an ambitious and legally binding agreement in Paris, and with businesses, investors, faith groups, citizens and the G7 moving away from fossil fuels and investing in renewables for the sake of a resilient economy, improved public health and a safer climate for their people and generations to come, those few governments still dragging their feet are looking ever more lonely and deluded.

Background

China has today officially submitted its climate action plan, or ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC) as it’s officially termed, for the Paris climate agreement due in December.  Together with Serbia, Iceland and South Korea with their climate pledges, countries are making concerted efforts in the lead up to Paris.

China’s announcement will see the country accelerate the transition by massively increasing its share of non-fossil fuels to 20 per cent of the primary energy consumption by 2030, aggressively cutting the carbon intensity of its economy by 60-65 per cent and peak emissions by around 2030 at the latest, and increasing the forest stock volume by up to 4.5 billion cubic meters on the 2005 level by 2030.

The plan lays out concrete steps of the country’s efforts to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels towards renewable energy. China saw the first drop in coal use and production in 2014 since this century, and has moved forward to ban new coal-fired power plants in some regions. In 2015, coal use and imports have been decreasing, while renewables achieved record growth in 2014. And according to its plan, China will be so for a relatively long time.

China is on track to deliver its 2020 target to reduce carbon intensity by 40-45 per cent, and according to The International Energy Agency, China’s 2030 peaking goal moves the country significantly away from the business-as-usual path, as compared to the benchmarks established by MIT and IEA. Under the IEA New Policies Scenario and the MIT Accelerated Effort Scenario China reduces intensity reduction of 66% from 2005 levels by 2030 and emissions plateau between 2025 and 2035.

The massive change is driven by its domestic concern for public health, air quality, energy security, poverty reduction and a resilient economy. Reports have been mounting on the huge co-benefits of China’s climate action. Around 500,000 decent new jobs will be created by 2030 and around 100,000 lives will be saved from deadly air pollution per year, if China fully implements the action plan unveiled as part of the groundbreaking joint announcement with the US last November.

More action secures even more benefits for China. Top Chinese think tank Energy Research Institute put forward recommendations in a recent report that it’s technically and economically feasible for renewables to provide over 60 percent of China’s primary energy consumption and 85 percent of electricity consumption by 2050; and under the high renewable energy penetration scenario, China will be able to peak fossil energy consumption and carbon emission by 2025. Another report from London School of Economics also suggests that China could make a shortcut to emissions peak by 2025 through clean energy development. Had China presented a plan which put it on a trajectory towards an economy powered by 100% renewables by 2050, it would secure around 1.2 million new jobs by 2030, and save around 1.9 million lives annually. The more ambitious plan would also deliver cost savings of around US$190 billion from fossil fuels China no longer needs to import.

China is showing its commitment to a climate agreement in Paris in which all countries do their fair share and account for their actions. With China’s INDC now formally on the table, countries responsible for well over half of the world’s pollution have put forward climate action commitments as part of the impending Paris agreement, with South Korea, Serbia, and Iceland offering their national pledges on the same day. Together, these plans will move us closer to our agreed threshold of limiting global warming to well below 2DegC beyond which the climate could spin out of control. To ensure we make up the difference, countries will need to strike an agreement to regularly check in, assess their collective progress, and scale up their efforts over time.

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Impacts and co-benefits

EU-China cooperation on climate change

KEY QUOTES

  • “A new global climate deal needs to be equitable and fair. In practice, one of the things that means is more finance and technology from developed countries to assist developing countries in taking climate action and responding to the impacts of climate change. We are still waiting for developed countries to show how they will deliver their commitment of US$100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020. The offer by China should give them an incentive to start delivering.” Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative
  • “China has broken the mold for climate pledges by explaining not only what it will do but also how it will implement its plans. These commitments will be enforceable on the national level. The government has included an implementation roadmap, with the relevant domestic legislative process that will make the targets legally binding.” Sze Ping LO, CEO of WWF-China
  • “China’s climate commitment sets it on a clear path to transition away from heavily polluting coal to cleaner and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. This transition to clean energy will also lead to cleaner air and improved health for its citizens. Today’s news sets the stage for the development of a strong international climate treaty later this year.” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • “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. China should establish a strong national coal cap in the next Five Year Plan to peak its coal consumption before 2020 and enable a swifter transition to a clean energy future.” Fuqiang Yang, Energy, Environment and Climate Change senior advisor for the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • “China has only ever been on defence when it comes to climate change, but today’s announcement is the first step for a more active role. For success in Paris, however, all players – including China and the EU – need to up their game.Today’s pledge must be seen as only the starting point for much more ambitious action. It does not fully reflect the significant energy transition that is already taking place in China. Given the dramatic fall in coal consumption, robust renewable energy uptake, and the urgent need to address air pollution, we believe the country can go well beyond what it has proposed today.” Li Shuo, Climate Analyst for Greenpeace China

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