China's Five-Year Plan Seen as Boosting Climate Action

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By Dean Scott

March 18 — China's latest five-year plan that sets out policies guiding its economic growth and energy use would provide impressive gains in reducing the carbon intensity of its economy—a 48 percent cut by 2020 from 2005 levels—a key indicator of its commitment to address carbon pollution linked to climate change, a group of China experts said March 18.

A 48 percent cut would mean China would easily surpass a climate pledge it put on the table ahead of the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks: that it would cut carbon emissions per unit of economic output 40 percent to 45 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

China, the world's top current emitter and second-biggest economy, ramped up that pledge ahead of talks toward the global deal that was ultimately reached in Paris in December of 2015. Under its pledge to the Paris pact, it vowed to cut its carbon intensity 60 percent to 65 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels and to peak its carbon emissions by 2030.

The Paris Agreement came six years after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce the world's first truly global climate accord. Under the Paris deal, developed and developing nations alike agreed to take actions to address climate change .

Ranping Song, developing country climate action manager for the World Resources Institute, said a 48 percent reduction by 2020 would put China on track to meet its 2030 goal. He and other WRI analysts spoke on a March 18 conference call with reporters.

The 48 percent reduction is an estimate by WRI that is based on progress China already has made in reducing its carbon intensity as of 2015 and adding new targets under the nations' five-year plan to make another 18 percent reduction in carbon intensity between 2016 and 2020.

China's latest five-year plan, heralded this month in Beijing at the annual National People's Congress meetings, is the 13th to be issued by the nation. It covers myriad economic and social goals through the next five years.

China also announced earlier in March that it will cap total coal consumption at around 5 billion metric tons annually by the end of 2020, which is among the environmental goals set out in the five-year plan .

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