China to build industrial system of low-carbon emissions

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China will build an industrial system and consumption pattern with low carbon emissions, Premier Wen Jiabao said in the government work report delivered at the parliament's annual session Friday.

The country will work hard to develop low-carbon technologies as well as new and renewable energy resources to actively respond to climate change, Wen told deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), adding that the development of smart power grids should be intensified.

Other measures to combat climate change include increasing forest carbon sinks and expanding China's forests by at least 5.92 million hectares in 2010.

He promised that China will participate in international cooperation to address climate change and work for further progress in the global cause.

Wen also addressed energy conservation, environmental protection and the development of a circular economy.

"We will increase our energy-saving capacity by an equivalent of 80 million tons of standard coal," he said.

For developing a circular economy, Wen said China will utilize mineral resources, recycle industrial waste, use by-product heat and pressure to generate electricity, and transform household solid waste into resources.

A draft plan for China's national economic and social development submitted to the NPC Friday also pledged that the country would formulate and implement policies to meet its action targets for limits on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and to promote international talks on countering climate change.

"Both Wen's work report and the draft plan showcased China's strong determination to improve energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emission," said Chen Ying, a researcher at the Research Center for Sustainable Development under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Noticing Wen spoke at length of China's economic restructuring and the transformation of economic growth pattern in his work report, Chen said the two issues were both of "decisive importance" to China's goals of energy conservation and low carbon emission.

"Technological advancement alone cannot achieve these goals. Not without changes to the economic growth pattern," she said.

Energy conservation and greenhouse gas emission reduction have become issues of wide public concern in China in the past few years.

In November, the Chinese government announced a "voluntary action" before the Copenhagen Conference, to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent compared with 2005 levels, in order to address global climate change.

On March 1, the National Development and Reform Commission also confirmed the government would take concrete actions to develop a low-carbon economy.

The country would include the low-carbon targets in the 12th five year plan for national economic development (2011-2015) to build an energy-saving, ecologically friendly society, the commission said.

It would launch a series of technological and fiscal support policies to promote the use of non-fossil, renewable energies including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and nuclear power, aiming to increase its proportion of primary energy consumption to about 15 percent by 2020 from 9.9 percent at yearend 2009.

But Chen admitted it was too early to rest assured.

"According to the 11th five year plan (2006-2010), China's per unit GDP energy consumption should be reduced by 20 percent at yearend 2010 compared with 2005 levels," she said.

However, according to Premier Wen's work report, from 2006 to 2009, energy consumption per unit of GDP fell only 14.38 percent, she said.

"China's goal in cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 is very challenging," Chen said, "We do indeed need to step up our efforts."

Her view was echoed by Jiang Xiangmei, chief engineer of the Jiangxi Academy of Forestry, who said China's energy consumption structure and its need for economic development all posed challenges for its goal of low carbon emissions.

"China's abundant coal resources and shortage of natural gas and petroleum have made the country to base its energy consumption structure on coal, thus leading to relatively high carbon emissions," said Jiang, who is also an NPC deputy.

She said the Chinese government has attached increasing importance to environmental protection in recent years, and has aimed to meet its commitment of limiting greenhouse gas emission and its own need for sustainable development, by transforming its economic growth pattern.

"The targets of energy conservation and greenhouse gases emission reduction put forth in the government work report showed China's willingness to shoulder international responsibilities," she said.

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