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Science & Technology

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Climat. La Chine bouge plus vite qu’elle ne parle


Climate. It is less talk and more action for China

Translated Tuesday 7 July 2015, by Sonia Govindankutty

The country has not yet announced its commitments regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases. Yet, matters have already progressed on the ground.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow? China’s announcement on its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals is expected shortly but the wait has not been without a degree of excitement. The extent of its commitments will be decisive in the fight against global warming and will determine, in part, the terms of the agreement resulting from the Paris Conference in December.

The country has already provided a teaser: in November 2014, during a summit meeting in the United States, all countries had spoken about their ambitions. The United States had spoken of reducing emissions by 26 to 28% from now till 2030, vis-à-vis 2005 levels. China, which is still developing, had committed to reach maximum levels of emissions at the latest by the same year, "and if possible, earlier", to start reducing from thereon. This target is not to likely to change.

But the "bunch of goals" that China is about to unveil contain other equally important aspects. The country’s ambition with regard to reducing carbon intensity within the 2030 time frame will be closely examined. In other words, the question is whether, till 2030, the rise in emissions will slow down and in what proportion. "It will make all the difference", reveals Célia Gautier from the Climate Action Network (CAN) that brings together many NGOs specializing in this subject. "To contain global warming, a commitment to reduce global emissions has to be made right now. That is why all actions by China, the biggest emitter after the United States and Europe, will have a tangible effect on the issue". By way of example, analysts point to the link between the stagnation of worldwide CO2 emissions in 2014 - a first in forty years - and the reduction in Chinese coal consumption over the past two years. However, these same observers anticipate China’s announcement on this to be modest: neither the worst that it could aim for...nor the best.

Investments in renewable energy

Overall, the numbers being put forth are estimated to be conservative or at least, lower that what the country is right now ready to implement. "Its real economy is advancing more quickly than its announcements," continues Célia Gautier. "Its investments in renewable energy are equal to those made by Europe and the United States put together and they will henceforth be enough to cover the additional energy requirements". 3.4 million people in the country work in this sector as per 2014 figures from NGOs, quoting statistics released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Two weeks back, Nicolas Stern published a report in which he claims that China will be in a position to reach maximum emission levels as early as 2025 and not 2030. Another study published by Greenpeace China states that the country has already reached peak levels of coal consumption, the principal source of CO2 emissions. In short, China is clearly playing the transition game. Why then, pose as less of a good guy? So as to have elbow room during negotiations, according to Célia Gautier. "It is a way of saying that China will do its part only if already industrialized nations, especially the United States, take up their own responsibilities seriously".

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