Chinese premier Li commits to 2030 CO2 peaking goal

Government set to maintain plans to slash emissions and boost clean energy use in UN pledge due on 17 June

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Pic: Chatham House/Flickr)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Pic: Chatham House/Flickr)

By Ed King

China’s premier has repeated his commitment to climate action days before the country is expected to reveal what level of greenhouse gas cuts it is willing to contribute to a UN deal.

In remarks reported on a government website, Li Keqiang said China would peak emissions by 2030 and “strive” to do this earlier.

China would increase energy saving measures and programmes to cut the level of CO2 per unit of GDP, he said.

Boosting the share of renewables in the national energy mix and increasing forest cover were also priorities, Li added.

Describing China as the world’s clean energy “superpower” Li said his administration attached “great importance” to a global solution, but stressed developed countries must take the lead.

The comments indicate that in its submission to the UN, due on Wednesday 17 June, the country is set to repeat the set of pledges President Xi Jinping made in November.

So far 41 countries, including the US and EU’s 28 member states, have revealed what carbon cuts they will accept. As the world’s biggest emitter, China’s contribution is deemed critical.

Li said China will continue to support least developed countries and small island states in their efforts to adapt to future climate extremes through a new “South-South” fund.

Clean revolution?

Clean energy investment soared 31% in China last year, with US$89 billion of backing for new wind, solar, hydro and nuclear projects.

The country is also in the process of launching a national carbon market, with several pilot projects already in operation covering industry around Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Coal remains by far the biggest source of energy, although demand fell 2.9% in 2014. Some experts are sceptical over the accuracy of the data.

But others say coal is on its way out, with a study from the London School of Economics predicting China’s emissions could peak by 2025, well before Li’s 2030 deadline.

“In our analysis of structural and cyclical trends in the electricity and industrial sectors, we conclude that China’s coal use has reached a structural maximum and is likely to plateau over the next five years,” said the LSE authors.

“Though there are some structural risks of coal use increasing over this period, there are possibilities, in our view more likely, that it will continue to decline.”

Further climate plans could be released when the EU and China hold a long-planned summit at the end of June, with markets and green technologies two potential areas for cooperation.

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