China announces a plan to achieve 17% cut in carbon intensity by 2015

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Feature Story - 2011-11-10
Yesterday China's State Council approved a plan to control the nation's serious greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of the plan will be to achieve the goal of a 17% cut in carbon intensity by 2015 from 2010 levels, as reported on a central government website.

While few concrete details have been released, what have so far been outlined are plans to:

  • Speed up energy savings and reduce consumption
  • Develop low carbon energy and increase the number of trees planted
  • Develop 'low carbon trial regions'
  • Build up a domestic carbon trading market
  • Build up a greenhouse emissions accounting system
  • Clearly define industry and corporate emissions standards and requirements
  • Enhance international cooperation
  • Define carbon emissions intensity targets for each province

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Li Yan had this to say about the plan:

This final plan to deliver a 17 percent carbon intensity target by China's most powerful political body is a clear signal that the world's most populated country is taking seriously the control of greenhouse emissions. But China can achieve a greater carbon intensity target than 17 percent. It is in the perfect position to become a global superpower of renewable energy and innovative energy efficiency.

The important next step is to make sure that strict implementation measures are in place at the provincial level to meet this agreed target. If successful, this move could mark a clear transition away from coal, which would rapidly reduce carbon emissions and pollution levels.

China also needs strong tools and a clear implementation process, as well as a regular monitoring system to hold local governors accountable; only when provinces are mobilized, can real change happen.

But at some point, all nations, including China, must take on binding targets that quickly reduce greenhouse emissions overall; not just at an intensity target that still allows for an overall emissions increase.

The big question remains whether this target and all the policies and measures put in place are ambitious enough to stop catastrophic climate change, and whether they are strong enough to deal with China’s rapidly increasing pollution problems.

The 2015 target date almost coincides with a recent Guardian report in which the International Environmental Agency claims the world is headed for irreversible climate change in five years.

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