Will China’s new “green growth” model be solution to climate change?

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BEIJING, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — Speaking of China’s economy now, what key words will come to your mind? Breakneck? Reckless? No, that may be so in the past decade. As the world’s second largest economy enters the “new normal” of slower growth, it’s now reshaping a more sustainable and environment-friendly development mode.

In the 13th Five-Year Plan, a newly revealed blueprint for China’s development for the next five years as of 2016, “green growth” is one of the five key concepts along with innovation, coordination, opening up and sharing.

As indiscriminate industrial expansion frequently choke up China’s skies with heavy smog and other pollution, green growth is being seen as the solution and the best way to delivering on China’s climate change commitments. It also reflects China’s genuine desire for a cleaner and more prosperous future not only for its own people but for the whole world.

So, what are key aspects of China’s new “green growth” model? Here are some facts you should know.

ENERGY REVOLUTION

The latest Five-Year Plan confirms that shifting China’s energy production mix toward cleaner energies is still at the top of the leadership’s agenda, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Joseph Jacobelli.

The blueprint promises an “energy revolution” that boosts development of non-fossil energy from wind, solar, biomass, water, and geothermal sources. It will also explore deposits of natural, shale and coal bed gas for cleaner energies. Nuclear power will be developed safely and efficiently.

Low-carbon public transportation will be widely adopted by an improved rail transport system along with new energy vehicles and green construction materials.

By the end of 2020, China aims to increase non-fossil energy to 15 percent of total primary power consumption and raise the share of renewable energy in production.

SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION

Restraining carbon emissions is a fundamental element of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, according to Demi Zhu, analyst of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Apart from the aggressive adoption of sustainable energy, China is also pushing forward its energy efficiency to achieve the objective. The new plan will continue to shift China’s growth model from heavy industries to advanced manufacturing and services, which are less energy intensive, Zhu said.

According to the plan, energy-intense industries, such as power, steel, chemical and building materials will be subject to carbon emission control regulations.

DEVELOPMENT FUND

China will set up a green development fund to promote clean production through clean energy, green transportation, control of carbon emissions in major industries and a circular economy, according to the plan.

The fund is seen as a new channel to steer capital and resources into the environmental protection industry. The Ministry of Environmental Protection expects a further 2 trillion yuan (300 billion U.S. dollars) to flood in each year from 2016 to 2020.

China has been beefing up environment-related investment for years. The country’s environmental protection industry grew by around 20 percent each year from 2011 to 2015, with more than 500 billion U.S. dollars injected into the sector during the period.

CARBON MARKET

China is striving to launch a nationwide carbon emissions trading market in 2017 to fulfill the country’s commitment of a low carbon future, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative on climate change, said last week.

Seven pilot schemes have already paved the way for a national market, Xie said. China began piloting carbon trading in 2011 and approved seven schemes in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangdong and Hubei. Under the schemes, enterprises that produce more than their share of emissions are allowed to buy unused quota on the market from those that cause less pollution.

Transactions of the seven pilots totaled about 1.2 billion yuan, involving gas emission quota of 40.24 million tonnes, according to an annual report released by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner.

GLOBAL COOPERATION

In addition, China has been working hard with the global community to tackle with the climate change issue.

In September, President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama issued a joint president statement on climate change. A highlight of Xi’s visit to Washington, the statement specified new steps both countries will take to deliver on pledges made last year to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month, Xi issued a joint statement on climate change in Beijing with visiting French President Francois Hollande. The two heads of state vowed to promote a working program on accelerating pre-2020 efforts in mitigation, adaptation and support at the UN climate change conference in Paris in December.

China has also pledged to establish a 20-billion-yuan fund to help other developing countries combat and adapt to climate change, while cutting carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 percent to 65 percent from the 2005 level by 2030.

China’s environmental endeavors are already showing results. In 2014, energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per unit GDP were down by 29.9 and 33.8 percent respectively from the 2005 level. Meanwhile, Chinese leaders have reiterated that the world’s second largest economy is ready to play a constructive role and work for the timely conclusion of a comprehensive, balanced and strong agreement at the Paris conference.

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