China sets limit on energy from coal

BEIJING — China on Wednesday set a target for coal use through 2020 with an eye on a commitment made with the US last week to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

The guidelines aim to ensure that coal burning reaches no higher than 4.2 billion tons per year by 2020. The figure for 2013 was 3.6 billion tons.

The plan involves limiting growth in overall energy use to 28 per cent between now and 2020. Energy use grew 45 per cent in the seven years through 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, cited by financial news agency Bloomberg.

The share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix will rise to 15 per cent by the same year, according to the plan issued by the State Council.

Installed nuclear power capacity is expected to reach 58 million kilowatts by 2020, according to the council. The current nuclear capacity is about 15 million kilowatts, Bloomberg reported.

President Xi Jinping said last week that China’s CO2 emissions would peak around 2030, and non-fossil fuel sources would make up 20 per cent of the country’s energy.

Xi did not put a target on 2030 emission levels last week, but it was the first time China, which relies heavily on coal-burning electricity generation, has put a date on a CO2 peak.

His announcement coincided with US President Barack Obama’s commitment cut US greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, compared with the previous target of a 17 per cent by 2020.

“By coming out early and standing together, they create momentum as we move toward an international agreement in Paris in 2015,” World Bank president Jim Young Kim said.

The US has in the past argued that it could not commit to reductions in greenhouse emissions until fast-growing China did the same.

But with the new cap set by the State Council, China can still increase the burning of coal 17 per cent by 2020, averaging 2.2 percent growth per year.

“The target could be and should be lower,” said Li Shuo, a Beijing-based campaigner for Greenpeace.

“Air pollution and the climate change cannot be controlled unless the coal consumption goes down,” Li said.

Climate scientists say if Earth’s temperature climbs more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial averages, the world will face rising sea levels, heavy floods and severe droughts.

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