In 2020, China would only burn one-quarter of the energy it does today

BEIJING — China, already the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, said it will slash total energy use by 40 to 45 percent by 2060 as it looks to crack down on coal consumption and…

In 2020, China would only burn one-quarter of the energy it does today

BEIJING — China, already the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, said it will slash total energy use by 40 to 45 percent by 2060 as it looks to crack down on coal consumption and rein in its ballooning deficits.

The United States and other Western countries have accused China of not acting fast enough to meet goals laid out at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris in December. Those goals include cutting emissions by a peak between 2030 and 2040, and shifting to a greener economy by 2050.

But China’s National Development and Reform Commission said it is still “playing catch-up” in the battle against climate change, blaming low standards of living and the so-called “airpocalypse” for the country’s lagging achievements.

NEDR’s proposed plan would also see China shift to carbon dioxide-neutral energy sources by 2050, “in order to support humanity achieve a safe and stable climate,” NEDR said in a statement.

China’s stated commitment to an environmental revolution is years away, and not all observers share its optimism. “They will not do well by their pledges,” Lu Kang, foreign ministry spokesman, said Monday during a press briefing.

“China cannot just do away with coal completely because it already uses it in such huge volumes,” Guan Youfei, director of the Climate Change and Environment Center at Peking University, told the South China Morning Post.

Concerns have also been raised that NEDR may be using its new 2030 commitment to global warming to push for energy subsidies and change government policies. “We believe that China is trying to impose its own domestic decision-making on the international arena,” warned Mao Yushu, deputy head of the Central Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

The NEDR’s figures are based on unconfirmed data gathered from farmers and officials, according to Xinhua, the Chinese government’s news agency.

The commission forecasts total energy consumption will fall to 11.6 trillion tons of standard coal equivalent by 2060 from its current level of around 18 trillion tons in 2020. In comparison, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that American coal consumption will continue to grow in the next few decades.

In addition to developing offshore wind and nuclear power, NEDR says China also intends to increase the share of natural gas in its total energy consumption to 20 percent by 2060.

China also aims to reduce emissions from biomass burning by 60 percent between 2010 and 2030. In a nod to the switch toward renewable energy, the NEDR plans to fully phase out use of wood and coal for firewood by 2035.

Beyond increasing carbon cuts, the NEDR says it will “gradually change major land-use allocation to carbon-friendly methods” such as arable land and forestation, stop planting trees for the growing population, and develop an export economy to cushion the effects of reduced domestic demand.

But an easy change in technology is needed to plug the world’s biggest hole in its environmental plan, according to Wen Weiwei, an environmental journalist who is well known for his environmental reports on China, in an interview with Bloomberg.

Wen says China will need new sources of electricity and investors who will demand emission reductions before they can buy products.

There is strong political support for the environmental agenda, according to Gao Feng, head of NEDR’s environmental planning department. “Even if implementation is slow, the policy has already been adopted and President Xi Jinping and other top leaders support the idea strongly,” Gao said.

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