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Energy shakeup in 2021-2025 key to China's carbon peak goal, says expert

Source: Xinhua Updated: 2021-02-01

BEIJING -- China is expected to restructure its industry and energy mix during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) to lay a solid foundation for peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030, a climate change expert has said.

The best scenario is that China will achieve zero growth in coal consumption during the period, and see usage peak and begin to decline by 2025, according to He Jiankun, deputy director of China's national expert committee on climate change.

"By 2030, the newly increased energy demand for economic development will be basically met by newly added non-fossil energy, and the consumption of fossil energy will not increase on the whole," He said.

During the period, China should promote the development of the digital, high-tech and modern services industries, while the expansion of high energy-consuming industries such as the steel, cement, petrochemical and chemical industries should be controlled, said the expert.

China's total carbon emissions and emission intensity are relatively high, with emissions per 10,000 yuan of GDP at about 1.5 times the world average and 2 to 3 times that of developed countries, He said.

That is because China is still in the industrialization and urbanization stage and requires significant infrastructure construction, He added, noting that a large portion of carbon emissions in China are created during the building process rather than being a result of the people's consumption needs.

The adjustment and upgrading of the industrial structure will be promoted so that energy consumption per unit of GDP will drop rapidly and total energy consumption growth will be controlled, He said.

The expert's remarks shed light on the details of China's emphasis on green development in its five-year plan, a blueprint for economic and social development.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee in October adopted proposals for the formulation of the plan and objectives, stressing the importance of a series of measures to facilitate the overall green transformation of economic and social development during the period. The country's top legislature is slated to deliberate the draft 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 in March.

China has announced that it will strive to bring carbon dioxide emissions to a peak before 2030 and become carbon neutral before 2060.

The carbon emissions target means a nationwide peak by the deadline, but at the regional level, the progress will surely be staggered given differences in resources, economic development stages and industrial layouts, said He, stressing the need to take a differentiated and inclusive approach that coordinates emission cuts with development.

Relatively developed regions in east China are expected to be among the first to reach a peak as they take the lead in economic transformation, and another group of front-runners will be from the country's renewable energy-rich southwest, said He.

Since the carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets were set, local governments have engaged in formulating plans at the provincial and city level, the expert said.

He urged local authorities to "suppress the impulse" to expand capacity in energy-intensive heavy and chemical industries, and accelerate the formation of a green, low-carbon circular industrial system.