Low-carbon Development in China

In the over five months since my arrival as Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas, I feel through communication with the Bahamian government officials and the general public that one of the issues they care and are concerned most is global climate change.

It is imperative for the Bahamians to pay high attention to and actively combat global climate warming and rise of sea level caused by global climate change due to the geographical location and climate environment of The Bahamas.

At the same time, I see tremendous and efficient work the Bahamian government and people have done to conserve energy and reduce emissions in developing a low-carbon economy.

Global climate change and its impacts are common concerns of human beings. Like the Bahamas, China is also vulnerable to climate change.

The climate warming trend in China is by and large in concert with that of the whole world. According to statistics by China Meteorological Administration, in the nearly 100 years from 1908 to 2007, the average surface temperature of the earth rose by 1.1℃ while that of China’s coastal area has risen by 0.9 ℃ in the past nearly 30 years and the sea level in the same area has risen by 90 mm.

Some scientists hold the view in their research that the future climate warming trend in China will be more serious. Probably there will be more frequent occurrence of disasters caused by extreme weather conditions. Uneven distribution of precipitation will be more distinct and drought area will grow despite increased precipitation. And sea-level will continue to rise. Therefore China is faced with huge challenge in addressing climate change.

As a responsible developing country, like The Bahamas, China attaches great importance to climate change and has played an active and constructive role in international cooperation in this area.

China has been actively involved in the process of addressing climate change together with the rest of the world, and has conscientiously implemented the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

I’d like to take this opportunity to briefly introduce what China has done or will do to actively fight climate change and to develop a low-carbon economy.

Being a populous and not yet prosperous developing country, coupled with complex climate conditions and a vulnerable ecological environment, China is prone to be affected by climate change, which presents a real challenge to China’s natural eco-system and social and economic development. For people living in eco-vulnerable areas, it is even an issue concerning their safety and survival.

China, being a major manufacturing country in the world with a population of over 1.3 billion, is no doubt a big carbon emitter. However, in terms of average emission per capita, China has emitted much less greenhouse gas than the leading developed countries.

An energy consumption and CO2 emission report by British risk analysis company Maplecroft at the end of 2009 showed the annual per capita CO2 output of the United States and Australia were 19.58 tons and 20.58 tons respectively while that of China was 4.6 tons, less than a quarter of the figure of the United States and Australia.

In terms of accumulated emission in history, the average figure of the United Kingdom and the United States was around 1100 tons, while that of China was 66 tons, only one twentieth of that of the U.K. and the U.S.

Fully aware of the significance and urgency, China has worked out a national plan on addressing climate change together with a series of due policy and measures. All these were made according to the requirements of its sustainable development and economic development and eco-protection, domestic and international situations, long and short-term objectives have also been fully considered.

China’s strategy on climate change and sustainable development has integrated China’s acceleration of building a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society into the building of a new-type country.

The strategy placed economic development at its core place, with conserving energy, optimizing energy structure and reinforcing eco-protection and development as focal points, and scientific progress as pillar.

Meanwhile the strategy called for vigorous control and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and continual improvement of China’s ability to adapt to climate change.

Since 1992, China has made significant contribution to mitigating global climate change through its efforts in increasing energy efficiency, developing clean energy, afforestation, population control and participation in international cooperation.

In 2010, renewable energy has taken up nearly 10% of China’s overall energy consumption. The installed capacity of hydropower generators, total area of solar heat collecting panels, accumulative generating capacity of photovoltaic solar power and man-planted forest area all ranked the first in the world.

The installed capacity of wind power generators ranked the fourth in the world. More than 30 million rural households in China were using bio-gas.

Additionally, China had closed several thousand small thermal power generators and a great amount of iron and steel smelting capacity as well as production capacity of cement, coal and charcoal, oil, chemical and textile plants based on outdated technologies to honor its commitment to reducing CO2 emission by 20% as was written in its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010).

By doing so, China saved 620 million ton standard coal, equal to the reduction of 1.5 billion ton CO2 emission.

The Chinese government announced its objective and action plan of greenhouse gas emissions prior to the Copenhagen Climate Summit, that is, by 2020, China will reduce CO2 emission per unit by 40-50 percent based on the 2005 level, increase the proportion of non fossil energy consumption to 15%, expand forest area by 4000 hectares and increase storage forest by 1.3 billion cubic meters. The commitment was widely received by public opinion.

China has made solemn commitment to the international community and integrated its objective of controlling greenhouse gas emissions as a binding indicator into its medium and long term national plan for economic and social development.

The period of 2005-2020 covers China’s 11th to 13th Five-Year Plans. Appropriate developing objectives were or will be set for each of the three Five-Year Plans according to the China’s concrete situation at the time and its long term strategy, which targets its “phase-by-phase” medium term green development objective by 2020.

This represents an ideal combination of China’s development philosophy of five-year plans and its green development strategy.

In fact, China successfully achieved its objectives of energy conservation and mission reduction that were set in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010), which served as a good beginning for the 2020 green development objective.

During the 11th five years, China’s per capita GDP energy consumption, SO2 emission and the amount of oxygen demand and emission reduced by 19.1%, by 14.29% and by 12.45% respectively. China closed 70 GW small thermal power units, equal to the overall installed capacity of thermal power operators in Britain. China fulfilled the objectives in its 11th Five-Year Plan as expected.

It was in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) that China first put forward the theme of “green development” and re-expounded the concept of “building an energy-conserving and environment-friendly society”.

It was clearly pointed out, being faced with increasingly tight restraints from energy environment, China must increase crisis awareness, cultivate green low-carbon development concept and list energy conservation and emission reduction as top priorities.

So it is of great significance to improve rewarding and punishing mechanism, quicken the tempo of establishing an energy-conserving and environment-friendly production and consumption mode so that the capability of sustainable development can be improved and the level of conservation culture upgraded.

China raised four binding objectives in its 12th Five-Year Plan for industries to conserve energy and reduce emissions in this year and the following four years.

It was clearly stated in the Plan that in 2015 energy consumption of per capita industrial growth, the corresponding CO2 emission and water consumption should be reduced by 18%, 18% plus and 30% respectively based on that at the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan. The comprehensive utilization of industrial solid waste should increase to around 72%.

In 2012, the first three of the four indicators should reduce by 4%, over 4% and about 7% respectively while the fourth should increase by 2.2%.

China has made notable progress in emission reduction at huge domestic cost. According to a survey by China Social and Sciences Institute, 600,000 workers will lose their jobs in the wake of the closing of small-scaled coal-generated power plants by 2020.

Moreover, China will close 10,000 small coal pits and more coal miners and peasants will become unemployed because of this move.

Fortunately, China has established social security system, through which those laid-off workers can receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Although a great number of people will lose their jobs because of the move for energy conservation and emission reduction, a lot of new job opportunities will be created at the same time.

According to a report by China Renewable Energy Association, at present China has altogether about 6000 solar power enterprises of various scales, which can create 200 thousand job opportunities for skilled workers.

As a developing country, China needs both development and emission reduction, the only way out is to take a green low-carbon development road.

China is standing in a key period of building a comprehensive well-off society, and in an important phase of accelerating industrialization and urbanization, with huge task of developing its economy and improving livelihood of the people. China is facing more serious challenge than developed countries in terms of addressing climate change.

Climate change is a common challenge faced by the international community as a whole, so the solution to it lies in the collaboration of all countries and all peoples.

China stands ready to work closely with the international community, including The Bahamas, to make continued efforts to realize global sustainable development and to make new contributions in protecting the climate system of the whole mankind as well.

Hu Shan, Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas.

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