China’s renewables revolution remains the future, despite rise in reported coal use

Intro

While news that China had under-reported its coal use in the past few years hit the headlines this week, climate and energy experts have been quick to allay fears that it could be a bad sign for the upcoming UN climate talks. In fact these figures are not new at all, but were first released back in February, and could be a step forward in the country’s climate policy, representing an improved “ability to monitor coal use and carbon pollution” and a step to “being transparent about it.” The figures do not change the global CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Nor will they change China’s current energy transition. The decline of coal industry is expected to continue. Coal use dropped for the first time in 2014 and production has fallen 5.8 per cent year on year to 1.79 billion tonnes in the first six months of 2015, while imports dropped by over 37 per cent. Meanwhile, the country spent over $80 billion in new renewables generating capacity in 2014, and this rapid development of clean energy will continue according to China’s recent draft blueprint for the next five years. All in all, China is taking measures – including improving its monitoring – to seize on the huge benefits of the renewable energy transition for both its people and its environment.

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Key Points

  • China is serious about improving its energy accounting in order to better monitor its climate action in the future. The nation’s revised energy data was first published in February, showing an increase in its past coal use, and represents the country’s “improved ability” to measure it coal use and carbon emissions. Such improvements will ensure the country is better able to monitor its energy use in the future, and the implementation of its own UN climate pledge.
  • China is set to come to Paris ready to support a robust climate regime that ramps up ambition over time. China has a “duty to humanity” to curb pollution, and is serious about its contributions to the Paris agreement. This week President Xi joined French President Hollande in supporting a deal which reviews emissions cuts every five years and sends a “clear signal” for a low-carbon transition. Such a regime, in line with a complete phase out of emissions by 2050, would further help boost China’s renewables industry, while bringing huge benefits for the country’s citizens in the shape of lives and money saved and green jobs created.

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Key Quotes

  • “For a great many years, we consumed too much energy and resources to achieve our development, and this model has since become unsustainable. The shift [into more environmentally-friendly development] was China’s duty and a contribution to humanity as one of the world’s largest countries.” – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
  • “We have known for some time that China was underreporting coal consumption. The fact that the Chinese government is now revising the numbers to more accurately reflect the real consumption is a good thing.” – Nicole Ghio, a campaign representative of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program
  • “What people want to know about at the Paris summit are China’s future emissions projections. We should look forward rather than backward. China does have huge carbon emissions but if we look forward China’s emissions will soon peak and begin to fall.” – Lin Boqiang, the director of Xiamen University’s China Centre for Energy Economics Research
  • “An economic slowdown and Beijing’s bold attempts to reduce its dependency on the fossil fuel meant consumption was now falling. China’s coal consumption probably won’t get as high as what we saw for the past decade,” he said. “At [the very] least we are seeing a plateauing period now, which is quite significant.” – Li Shuo, the senior climate and energy policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia
  • “Paris climate talks at the end of the year are expected to set a new global climate regime after 2020, and the revision is a sign that China is taking efforts to promote the Paris climate conference in a responsible attitude, rather than the opposite. Improved data quality is a critical step for China to better monitor, report and verify its GHG emissions, so as to contribute to the global efforts to take climate action. ” – Greenovation Hub

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