China approves plan to combat climate change

The Chinese central government on Friday approved a plan that maps out major climate change goals to be met by 2020.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, gave a green light to the plan, which was proposed by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s economic planner. A statement released on the State Council’s website urged the NDRC to carry out the plan.

China has pledged to reduce its carbon emission intensity, namely emissions per unit of GDP, by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level. It will also aim to bring the proportion of non-fossil fuels to about 15 percent of its total primary energy consumption.

Other targets include increasing forest coverage by 40 million hectares within the next five years.

The government will speed up efforts to establish a carbon emission permit market, under the plan, which also calls for deepened international cooperation under the principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” equity and respective capability.

The State Council said local governments and departments at all levels should recognize the significance and urgency in dealing with climate change and give higher priority to action on this issue.

China’s release of the action plan came just before a climate summit to be held at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will attend.

Xie Zhenhua, deputy chief of the NDRC and the country’s top official on climate change, told a press conference that the plan was concrete action by China to participate in the global process to tackle climate change.

By the end of last year, China had reduced carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 28.56 percent from 2005, which was equivalent to saving the world 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, Xie said.

At the end of 2013, China’s consumption ratio of non-fossil energy to primary energy stood at 9.8 percent. Forest growing stock had increased by 1.3 trillion cubic meters from 2005 to two trillion cubic meters, seven years ahead of schedule, according to the official.

In the first nine months of 2014, China’s energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped by 4.2 percent year on year and carbon intensity was cut by about 5 percent, both representing the largest drops in years, he said.

As a developing country, China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. With the plan, the country has showed its confidence in achieving its green goals.

Xie said China has been playing an active and constructive role in tackling climate change by taking measures mainly in three areas — energy conservation and improving efficiency of energy use, developing renewable energy, and increasing forest carbon sinks.

The latter refers to the process of forests absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in plants or the earth, so as to reduce the density in the air.

Xie called for a new global protocol on climate change to adhere to the principles of fairness and common but differentiated responsibilities, referring to the responsibilities of developed and developing countries in reducing their carbon footprints respective to their developmental abilities.

Data released by various research institutions has suggested that developing nations have accounted for 70 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions cuts in the world, according to Xie.

Promising that China would announce measures on tackling climate change after 2020 at the upcoming summit, he said that this work is not only China’s binding international obligation, but also essential for its own development, as the Chinese economy is being weighed down by increasing resource and environmental constraints.

Addressing the Summer Davos forum on Sept. 10, Premier Li Keqiang said China is studying targets on greenhouse gas emission control, including maximum permissible carbon dioxide emission and an increase in the share of non-fossil energy by 2030 and beyond.

“We have the resolve, the will and the capability to pursue green, circular and low-carbon development,” said the premier.

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