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China’s Economic Growth Concerns Get Ahead of Climate Goals

China has pledged a five-year climate plan, but economic growth and security concerns may override climate goals.

China has pledged to dedicate its new “five-year plan” to tackling climate change, but concerns over economic growth and energy security are expected to soften the country’s green goals.

Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng said in October that the 2021-2025 plan, which will be submitted to parliament in March, will “be dedicated to addressing climate change” and that it will “focus on the country’s new vision” to peak emissions before 2030 and achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2060. told.

However, experts said Beijing will continue to focus on growth and build new coal-fired power plants to address the energy shortage.

“I think it is possible for policy makers to set less ambitious targets on energy and coal consumption (in the five-year plan),” said Zhang Shuwei of the Draworld Energy Research Center, a think tank.

The ruling Communist Party’s Politburo said in November that the five-year plan should promote low-carbon energy and support efforts to quickly peak emissions in some areas.

The provincial-level plans also include commitments to the growth of renewable energies and the promotion of carbon trade, while a policy document released Monday stated that China will develop its energy sector by 2025.

New targets and an overall energy consumption cap are also expected to increase renewable capacity and reduce the amount of carbon produced per unit of GDP.

Lauri Myllyvirta, chief analyst at Helsinki-based Energy and Clean Air Research Center, said China will most likely set an energy limit of 5.5 billion tons of coal for 2025 and aim to increase the share of renewable energies from the current 15% to 20%.

He warned, however, that this target would still allow carbon dioxide to rise 4% per year over the next five years.

The idea of ​​putting an absolute limit on carbon suggested by Chinese think tanks is not clear.

“It is very likely that China will reach the emission limit before 2025 or by 2025, but it is difficult to say whether this will be written in the 14th five-year plan text,” said Zou Ji, China chairman of the non-governmental research group Energy Foundation.

Saying No to Coal

China launched nearly 40 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired new power plants last year; that’s three times the amount built elsewhere in the world, and there are currently 247 GW in development.

The energy regulator was criticized in January for failing to control coal capacity, but it is uncertain whether China will deter new projects as energy security is prioritized.

Some government researchers say that over-reliance on “discontinuous” energy sources such as wind and solar will expose China to famine and more coal plants are required. There were cuts in some parts of China in December.

“Recent grid failures in central China have unfortunately bolstered calls to build more coal power,” said Myllyvirta.

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