Energy targets can be met, says Greenpeace
Tom Miller in Beijing
Greater use of energy efficiency and existing renewable technologies can prevent China's economic miracle from accelerating global climate change, according to an optimistic new report on sustainable energy.
In contrast to doom-laden surveys saying China's economic rise will vastly increase the level of greenhouse gases warming Earth's atmosphere, the report - jointly produced by Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council - argues that the nation's energy intensity can be reduced by almost 80 per cent by mid-century.
'Our energy revolution report shows that China can maintain economic growth and - at the same time - stabilise its CO2 emissions at current levels by 2050,' said Sven Teske, Greenpeace energy expert and report co-author.
The report, 'Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable China Energy Outlook', targets a decrease in energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product of 45 per cent by 2020. That is in line with the government's own target, which should largely be met through reducing the number of energy-intensive industries, introducing more efficient technologies and strengthening the management of energy consumption.
The government is shutting ageing factories, including inefficient steel mills and all small-scale coal-fired plants. Nevertheless, energy intensity decreased by just 1.2 per cent last year, well below the national target of 4 per cent.
Although Beijing wants 16 per cent of China's primary energy to come from modern renewable sources by 2020 - up from 7.5 per cent today - the report says that more emphasis should be put on supporting the huge potential of wind and solar power.
The government needs 'to introduce strong policies such as feed-in-tariffs to support the development of wind and solar PV [photovoltaic] industries in China,' said Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace in China.
Under the current 'concession' system, wind developers bid to sell electricity at the lowest price - sometimes barely above the cost of production. Such bidding has nearly halved the average tariff, discouraging many investors. But it is popular with the government because wind energy is growing quickly and cheaply.
The report concludes that, with the right policy support, global carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by almost 50 per cent by 2050 without harming the world economy.
US Department of Energy figures for China
2003 carbon emission in tonnes: 1,131