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China stepping up efforts towards low-carbon economy

Mar 13, 2009 - Xinhua

BEIJING - Low-carbon economy has become a popular topic in China, as Chinese people are well aware that economic growth should not be achieved at the price of environment and a low-carbon economy may become the new model for future development.

-- Striving Towards a Low-carbon Economy

China would "work tirelessly" to save energy, reduce emissions, preserve the ecosystems, and protect the environment, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said in a government work report at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), or the top legislative body of the country, on March 5.

Wen said the government would emphasize energy conservation in the three key areas of industry, transportation and construction; continue work on the ten major energy conservation projects; and implement energy-conserving measures for power generators, boilers, automobiles, air-conditioners and lighting products. It would also energetically develop a circular economy and clean energy; improve policies for conserving energy and protecting the environment; launch a nationwide campaign on the importance of energy conservation and emissions reduction; continue to protect water, forests, grasslands, wetlands and other elements of the ecosystems; and implement the national plan for addressing climate change.

A message from the annual session of the NPC, tells saving energy and protecting environment are put in an important position on the government agenda, though keeping a "steady and relatively fast" economic growth is a paramount task amid the global economic crisis.

The country will accelerate the development of clean energy, such as nuclear, wind and solar power, said the premier.

NPC deputies voiced their concerns over development of low-carbon economy and environmental protection during the "two sessions" period, namely the annual full sessions of NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the nation's top political advisory body.

NPC deputy Li Ya suggested that the government launch concrete measures for development of low-carbon economy.

Another NPC deputy Chen Yilong called for state financial support for development of biomass energy.

Deputy Fu Qiping brought up the idea of levying environmental tax in order to stimulate enterprises' technological innovation on pollution treatment.

The Jiu San Society, one of China's eight democratic parties, called for government support for development of low-carbon technology, low-carbon products and trial demonstration of low-carbon economy in major cities.

-- Achievements in Environmental Protection in Past Years

China's investment in environmental protection has been increasing in recent years.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, China invested over 700 billion yuan in environmental protection during the Tenth Five-Year Plan period (2000-2005), in comparison with 47.64 billion yuan during the Seventh Five-Year Plan period (1986-1990).

Premier Wen Jiabao said in the government work report that China invested 42.3 billion yuan to support development of ten key energy conservation projects and environmental protection facilities in 2008.

In the same year, China's energy consumption per unit of GDP fell by 4.59 percent from the previous year; chemical oxygen demand fell by 4.42 percent; and sulfur dioxide emissions fell by 5.95 percent.

For the past three years, total energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped by 10.08 percent; chemical oxygen demand dropped by 6.61 percent; and sulfur dioxide emissions dropped by 8.95 percent.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection disclosed at a national environmental protection conference that China had 20 state key labs for environmental protection and 15 state environmental protection engineering centers under construction or in operation, by the end of 2008. That is expected to increase to 30 labs and 50 centers by 2010.

China has set a target of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent and major pollutant emission by ten percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010).

Besides, low-carbon contents were frequently seen in the stimulus packages China unveiled recently for boosting ten industrial sectors, as they attached great importance to elimination of outdated capacities and heavily polluting production lines.

-- Facing Challenges in Development of Low-carbon Economy

Experts held that China is facing a lot of challenges to develop a low-carbon economy in the country.

Coal remains a major energy resource in China. According to statistics, around 85 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 90 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions and 73 percent of dust come from coal consumption in the country at present. Economic losses caused by carbon dioxide emissions amount to 2.2 percent of its GDP.

However, China's coal consumption has kept rising, increasing three percent year on year to 2.74 billion tons in 2008, according to statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Besides, China is lagging behind the world in industrial technology and energy utilization. A low-carbon economy requires development of advanced technologies such as recovery and reuse of methane, HFC23 burning, decomposition of nitrous oxide, and collection and storage of carbon dioxide.

At the same time, public education on energy saving and emission reduction is still far from enough.

China's energy consumption per capita is relatively low in the world, but the 1.3-billion-population country has a huge gross energy consumption, thus is put under pressure from other countries in the world. It is predicted that China will be asked to take more joint responsibility in emission reduction in the future.

-- Opportunities in Developing Low-carbon Economy

The world trend of low-carbon economy brings not only challenges but also chances to China. Statistics indicate that China now provides about one third of carbon dioxide emission volume on global market, and is expected to take up 41 percent of the total emissions quotas issued by the United Nations in 2010.

Hu Anguang, a public policy professor at Tsinghua University, predicted that China would become the largest carbon trading market, the largest market for environmental protection, the largest production base and the largest exporter of low-carbon products.

Compared with developed countries in Europe and America which have formed matured economic pattern and industrial system, China as a developing country, has fewer burdens in the process of adjusting industrial structure and transferring economic development pattern towards low-carbon one.

By taking this chance, China is very likely to lead low-carbon development in the world.

-- A Low-carbon Society Requires Efforts from All

The development of a low-carbon society requires the best efforts from all levels of the society.

The government needs to promulgate long-term development strategy, launch supportive measures to encourage technological innovation, emission reduction and development of renewable energy, and provide financial support, tax preference and green credit to new energy product manufacturers for development of low-carbon economy.

Besides, enterprises should commit themselves to their social responsibilities, accelerate elimination of outdated production capacities, and develop more energy-efficient and low-emission products.

At the same time, the public should reconsider their old habits and lifestyle to avoid waste of energy, since service industry and public consumption sector have a big potential of energy saving and emission reduction.

For example, China can save energy of 12,000 tons of standard coal equivalent, and cut carbon dioxide emission by 310,000 tons, if reducing plastic bag consumption by ten percent, as calculated by the Ministry of Science and Technology.