SCIO briefing on climate change

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 19, 2014
Adjust font size:

Mr. Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)

Hu Kaihong, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office

September 19, 2014

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning! Welcome to this State Council Information Office press conference. Today, the State Council has approved “China’s National Plan on Climate Change (2014-2020)”. In order to help you better understand the related information, we are very pleased to invite Xie Zhenhua, Vice Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, to introduce and explain the plan. He will also answer any questions you might have. Now, let’s welcome Vice Minister Xie to give an introduction.

Xie Zhenhua:

Good morning correspondents and reporters! The State Council has approved “China’s National Plan on Climate Change (2014-2020).” I believe all of you have got copies, so I will not take up too much of your time. The international negotiation on climate change has entered a crucial stage, where all the countries around the world are devoting themselves to reaching an agreement in 2015 for strengthened action on climate change after 2020. The United Nations Climate Summit will be held in New York on Sept. 23, and Vice Premier of the State Council Zhang Gaoli, as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping, will attend the summit as the head of the Chinese delegation.

China’s move to release its national plan on climate change ahead of the summit is a very concrete reflection of the fact that China is actively stepping up efforts to address climate change and is undertaking responsibilities consistent with its level of development and capabilities. It is also a practical action that shows China is participating in the process of global climate control and will drive the success of the Climate Summit as an active and responsible country. Therefore, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will promote China’s policies, actions as well as achievements for addressing climate change at the Summit. He will also take an oath to carry out China’s strengthened policies for addressing climate change after 2020. We will work with the world to promote the climate change negotiation to reach a deal as scheduled, and make a new and important contribution to protecting global climate. Now, I would like to answer the questions you have. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

Thanks Vice Minister Xie. Now, it is time for questions. Please report the name of the organization you represent before asking your question.


As the UN Climate Summit will be held soon, just at a time when China’s National Plan on Climate Change (2014-2020) is released. What is the significance of this? Thank you.

Xie Zhenhua:

Yes, in advance of the Summit, we did indeed release China’s National Plan on Climate Change (2014-2020). Actually, our policies, actions and goals for addressing climate change up to 2020 had already been announced in 2009. Up to now, the progress is still relatively smooth, although there are still many difficulties. We have met our planned expectations and goals. Since there are still six years left before 2020, we have put these released plans and goals into our mid-term and long-term development program. It shows the Chinese government is determined and confident to realize the program for addressing climate change before 2020.

In addition, all our policies, measures and actions for addressing climate change are conducive to national development mode transformation and structural adjustment, thus promoting the quality and efficiency of our economic growth. That is an internal requirement for the sustainable development of our country. As President Xi Jinping has said: addressing climate change and implementation of sustainable development is not what we are asked to do, but what we really want to do and we will do well.

The timing of the Plan’s being released also indicates to the international community that China is a responsible world power and we carry out our commitments. Climate change is a challenge to the life and future development of all humankind and has become a serious threat to us. Therefore we should ensure we achieve all our goals on climate change as a contribution to the world’s climate and environment. Until now, our actions on addressing climate change, in our Premier’s words, have cost us great efforts and involved extremely hard work in order to ensure the realization of our goals. Thank you.

China News Agency:

The UN Climate Summit will be held on Sept. 23. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants to promote the process of negotiation on a political level during the meeting. My questions are what expectations does China have on that meeting and do you think the meeting could reach the desired effect of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon? Thanks!

Xie Zhenhua:

Indeed, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes that the United Nations can play an important role in the course of fighting against climate change. We also hope the summit can promote the multilateral process on climate change on the political level. Every country attaches great importance to this. As far as we know, there will be more than 120 state leaders attending the meeting. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will attend the meeting as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. During this meeting, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will introduce the policies, measures, actions and remarkable results that we have achieved in the course of combatting climate change. We will pledge China’s position on the new climate change agreement. We will announce some of the positive action that China will take to tackle climate change after the year 2020. We are willing to play an active and constructive role during the whole of the multilateral process on climate change.

China Daily:

You mentioned that in the future China will look into integrating its carbon emission trading market with the international market. Will this happen after China expands its current trading trials nationwide? Could you give us a summary of the plan? Thank you!

Xie Zhenhua:

According to China’s national conditions, we have now started carbon emission trading trials in seven provinces and cities. They are in eastern China, central China, and western China. Our purpose is to explore different emission trading systems and mechanisms in line with various conditions and demands, in preparation to expand throughout the country. The pilot projects have been in operation for more than one year, and are going smoothly.

The pilot regions first set up their own trading system, before building a calculation system, confirming emissions volumes, and establishing a distribution mechanism. After a one-year test, the carbon trading volume has reached 11 million tons, with a turnover of 500 million yuan. The carbon price in general has risen to 70 yuan from 20 yuan.

In fact, all our pilot projects are a preparation for the overall carbon emission trading system which will be in accordance with the Chinese national condition. At present, we are summarizing the experience from different trials and trying to establish a market nationwide. Our exploration and efforts have proved to be smooth and successful, thank you!

Financial Times:

I have two questions. First, it’s reported the NRDC is carrying out research as to when China’s carbon discharge will reach its peak. I want to know if you have managed to develop any prediction on when the figure will reach its peak and start to decline. Second, we are very concerned about the projects related to coalbed gas and coal oil in northwestern China. Are you at all worried that such big projects will consume a large quantity of coal and result in severe pollution? Does the NRDC have any measures to restrict such projects? Thank you.

Xie Zhenhua:

China has been organizing experts to carry out research on the carbon discharge peak value based on the country’s national conditions. We should first concede that, according to general rules, total carbon discharge increases in line with economic growth. However, if we adopt active policies and follow a “green and low carbon” development path, meaning we have to adjust the development mode and energy structure, we will still be able to show such a correlation is not inevitable. When will such a divergence occur? The research is still underway to answer that question. Premier Li Keqiang talked about that issue at Davos. I think Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will announce some of China’s considerations in principle at the United Nations climate change summit.

I am sure the government will seriously address the issue of peak value. We will try hard to announce the research results as soon as possible.

Concerning coalbed gas exploitation, it will probably create some environmental problems. That’s why we must actively work with international partners, paying attention to the impact on the environment and overall ecology when we exploit coalbed gas. Using coal results in pollution and more carbon discharges. The energy structure, therefore, should be adjusted. Currently, we are encouraging the development of non-fossil energy. Compared with basic coal, coalbed gas and natural gas have lower carbon discharges. But the whole exploitation process will certainly impact on the environment. Therefore, we are trying to handle such problems by upgrading our technologyy. We have no choice but to use such energy sources. We will try to solve the potential problems through technology upgrade and cooperation. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency:

Since there are only six years left, do you perceive difficulties in reaching the objective of cutting emission by 40-45 percent by 2020? If so, what solutions are available? Thank you!

Xie Zhenhua:

To reach our objective of reducing the carbon intensity, primarily reducing emission by 40-45 percent from amount recorded in 2005, non-fossil energy should account for 15 percent of primary energy generation and the national forestry volume should increase by 1.3 billion cubic meters. This objective does seem daunting. This is why the premier has stressed the objective is only possible through painstaking efforts.

We have been working hard on this. As of 2013, the country's carbon intensity has dropped by 28.56 percent, equivalent to 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions; non-fossil energy has risen to provide 9.8 percent of primary energy; the forest coverage has increased by 2.0 billion cubic meters, exceeding the original goal of 1.3 billion cubic meters. It is fair to say that we have made preliminary achievements according to the agenda.

But the development mode still belongs to the extensive type. The economic, industrial and energy structures are yet to be optimized. To solve such problems, we have to focus on improving our development mode and lifestyle, and, indeed, restructuring the entire economy.

China's achievement does stand out when compared with other countries. Although our energy consumption per unit of GDP is twice as much as that in developed countries, we have made noticeable progress. According to World Bank statistics, from 1990 to 2010, the amount of energy China saved accounted for 58 percent of the global total, thanks to our efforts in saving energy and raising efficiency. Although renewable energy only accounted for 9.8 percent of primary energy, the absolute installed capacity of clean energy was nonetheless significant.

As of 2013, the installed capacity of hydropower doubled the 2005 level. The installed capacity of wind power grew 60-fold in the same period, while photovoltaic power grew 280 times. In 2013, the China’s installed capacity of renewable energy accounted for 24 percent of the global total, but the incremental increase in that year accounted for 37 percent of worldwide growth in renewables.

In addition, China has the largest area of man-made forest. We have made much effort in converting marginal arable land back to forest, resulting in a quick incremental gain in the forest volume.

However, despite our rapid, remarkable achievements, challenges still lie ahead. Restructuring China's economy and industry will require large investments and technological innovation among others.

Thank you.


How did the Chinese government perform regarding the goals of the carbon dioxide reduction per unit of GDP during the first half of this year? What measures has the Chinese government taken to reduce carbon intensity? Will China be able to accomplish the goals of reducing carbon intensity set by the Twelfth Five Year Plan? Thank you.

Xie Zhenhua:

Economic growth this year is 7.4 percent. According to the original requirement, carbon intensity should be 4 percent, but it already reached 5 percent for the first six months. Energy consumption per unit of GDP was set to be 3.9 percent, but it has reached 4.2 percent. Following recent analysis, we believe that energy consumption per unit of GDP will remain around 4.2 percent, and carbon intensity will remain at around 5 percent for January to September. Thus the [carbon intensity] is expected to fall, and this year’s goals will definitely be achieved. If we continue with our efforts in energy conservation and emissions reduction, then the goals for the Twelfth Five Year Plan will be realized. But still, we need to overcome a number of difficulties.

We have addressed the issues from the following aspects. First, conserving energy and increasing the efficiency of energy usage, especially industrial energy conservation. We carried out a campaign called “10,000 enterprises: energy conservation and low carbon dioxide” as well as some key projects. We conducted a “green” architecture campaign, in which new buildings have to adopt the new energy conservation standards while those built previously should be renovated, and the campaign has achieved considerable progress. In terms of traffic, we carried out a low carbon campaign for vehicles, ships, roads and ports, and achieved a lot. The government and government agencies should take the lead in energy conservation of public buildings. As for renewable energy sources, China has the largest scale of nuclear power under construction in the world; renewable energy has been developing quickly.

Thus I can assure you that the goals of the Twelfth Five Year Plan can be achieved. There are indeed some difficulties, but we will actively overcome them, because addressing climate change is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity for us to transform our production mode, adjust the economic structure and increase the quality and efficiency of economic development. In this sense, a new strategic industry will emerge through the work of energy conservation, emissions reduction and addressing climate change. China’s energy conservation and environmental protection industry is currently developing quickly: it is estimated that the total production of the industry will reach 4.5 trillion yuan by 2015, the end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan; and jobs will be provided for an expected 32 to 33 million people. Addressing climate change is not in conflict with economic development. Progress can be made in both regards, as long as things are handled properly. Thank you.

The Wall Street Journal:

May we know who will lead the Chinese delegation to attend UN Climate Summit 2014?

Xie Zhenhua:

Zhang Gaoli, the member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council, will lead the Chinese delegation.


I have heard that China will control the total amount of consumption of coal and the total emissions of carbon dioxide in its next Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). What is your comment on this?

Xie Zhenhua:

The news you have got is quite correct. We are preparing to deal with climate change issues in an active way. Just now, a reporter asked whether China will be able to reach the carbon dioxide discharge peak value. If we have to reveal the peak value as early as possible, we must take strong action to control the total amount. So we are preparing to control the total amount of energy consumed and the total emissions of carbon dioxide. Right now, we are discussing and evaluating the options, and we are making plans and preparing concrete measures. The date when we will be able to adopt these measures still needs more research; then, we can roll out some policies and measures covering this aspect. Anyway, your information is basically correct, and we are indeed making preparations for this.

ARD German Radio:

I have two questions. First, does China still regard itself as a developing country in the climate change negotiations? Second, about the coal and natural gas projects in north and northwest China you just mentioned, many environmental organizations and Chinese experts have raised concerns that such projects will greatly increase China's carbon dioxide emissions. How do you respond to their concerns?

Xie Zhenhua:

It goes without saying that China is a developing country, because the current per capita GDP is less than US$7,000, and the average daily income of 128 million people is still below US$1.5. In this regard, China is a developing country and there is no doubt about it. However, as a developing country, China plays a positive and constructive role in global action, in the multilateral process to counter climate change. China is pushing forward the negotiation process. Everybody can understand this.

In terms of domestic policies, I just said that all countries basically adopt energy conservation measures to improve energy efficiency. They are developing renewable energy and increasing forest carbon sinks. In the whole process, China's actions and achievements have been remarkable. So far, according to audits by scientific research institutions, emission reductions from developing countries account for 70 percent of the global total commitments, while those from developed countries accounts for only 30 percent. This is a situation we don’t want to see. According to the requirements of the Convention and the Protocol, developed countries should take the lead in reducing emissions by a big margin and provide financial and technical support to developing countries. But we haven't really seen this kind of situation yet. On the contrary, developing countries have taken many active measures. Their commitments of emission reductions in 2020 were enough to illustrate this point. We hope the new agreement to be reached next year will adhere to the basic principle of fair, "common but differentiated responsibilities" and respective capabilities. Each country undertakes consistent responsibilities and obligations according to its own historical mission, stage of development, national situation and capabilities. This is the basic point of view we hold in climate change.

I just talked about the development of coal and natural gas in northwest China. To develop the economy, a country must safeguard its energy supply. This involves the issue of energy security. We believe that energy security involves not only the energy supply, but also green, low carbon energy. We are actively working on this issue. In the development of renewable energy, there will be reasonable overall growth of coal. But we will minimize the overall growth. This is our basic policy. The resulting environmental problems will gradually be solved during the process of development. The problems are inevitable in development. We admit that there are problems, and we have the ability to solve them.

Thank you!

Financial Times:

Energy and low carbon are quite complicated issues. Hydroelectric power, as you mentioned, also harms the environment, and China will still use coal. What do you think is the greatest problem of all?

Xie Zhenhua:

The greatest problem in energy is still the adjustment of the energy resource structure. But there are indeed many difficulties in adjusting the structure. Take nuclear power for example; there is the problem of safety. Foreign countries are quite undecided on this issue, and we are determined to develop nuclear power in a moderate and safe fashion. As to hydropower, the migration of people and ecology are two problems. We should deal properly with the need for developing renewable energy as well as environmental issues. When it comes to wind and solar power, we need to transform the electric power network, which requires technological cooperation, transfer and development. Therefore, we proposed to a production and consumption revolution in the field of energy. We need to address the practical problems and difficulties in energy development through technological innovation and a technical revolution.

Hu Kaihong:

That is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you, Vice Minister Xie.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from