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China’s low-carbon economy

China has committed to developing a low-carbon economy. Our reporter, Wang Hui, explains to us China’s efforts and how China is fulfilling its commitments step by step.

In order to reduce reliance on fossil energy, China aims to raise its installed capacity of nuclear power to 58-million kilowatts, and plants under construction will reach 30-million kilowatts by 2020.

China’s nuclear power projects stalled after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan in March 2011. The accident caused safety concerns about the industry, so China’s ratio of nuclear power to its overall electric power generation only ranked 30th worldwide in early 2014. It was almost the lowest rate among all nuclear nations. But experts believe the industry will develop fast.

“China has advantages in financing and technology. So, we have bright prospects. In the next 15 years, we will make big progress in developing nuclear power,” Qi Ye, director of Brookings Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, said.

Promoting non-fossil fuels plays a key part in China’s efforts to develop a low-carbon economy.

China has now invested about $9 billion in the renewable energy sector, about 30 percent of the global share. It leads the world in investments in many areas, such as water and wind power.

China has also shifted its strategy for facilitating this low-carbon economy. It is moving from purely focusing on production to save energy and reduce emissions, to instead looking at the entire economic chain.

“We now look at productive enterprises, consumers, the investments of the market, and the improvement of technologies. This is the real low-carbon economy, with the influence on all economic areas. Just controlling the production part is not enough,” Cao Heping, dean of Department Of Enviro Resource & Dev’t Economy, Peking University said.

China promises in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDC, to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to increase non-fossil fuel sources in primary energy consumption to about 20 percent.

The Communist Party of China issued a proposal for the 13th Five-Year Plan in early November. This will be China’s national economic and social development blueprint from 2016 to 2020.

The proposal helps fulfill China’s promises in the INDC. It lists green development as one of the highlights. It promises an “energy revolution” with clean, safe resources replacing fossil fuels. It also puts energy-intense industries under carbon emission control regulations.

“The two important ideas of “green development” and “environmental protection” have been put into the principles of the proposal, as the highest goals of development. It has also set specific targets, such as reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. It will be a remarkable decline,” Cao said.

“We have made commitments to coping with climate change in the international community. Domestically, we will confirm the commitments through legislation. We execute the commitments in different periods, with a plan for every five years. So, five-year plans are consistent with our commitments,” Qi said.

Experts say China still faces many challenges to transition its economy from a high energy-consumption model to a low-carbon one. This is because it’s hard to change people’s old habits, and to advance technologies in the blink of an eye. However, the 13th Five-Year Plan shows China’s resolution.