WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- China can still prosper economically while removing coal from its power mix, a report from the World Wildlife Fund said Wednesday.
"By fully embracing energy conservation, efficiency and renewables, China has the potential to demonstrate to the world that economic growth is possible while sharply reducing the emissions that drive unhealthy air pollution and climate change," Lunyan Lu, WWF's China Climate and Energy Program director, said in a release.
The report, prepared by the Energy Transition Research Institute in Annapolis, Md., used computer modeling to simulate four possible scenarios in China: a baseline, high efficiency, high renewables and low-carbon mix scenarios.
"This research shows that with strong political will, China can prosper while eliminating coal from its power mix within the next 30 years," Lu said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its most recent analysis of China released this month, said coal accounted for 66 percent of the country's installed electricity generating capacity in 2012.
China's National Energy Administration, in projections released last month, said coal consumption as a proportion of the country's total energy mix will fall below 65 percent in 2014, Platts news service reported.
China aims to produce at least 15 percent of its overall energy output by 2020 from renewable energy sources.
Chinese companies invested $65 billion in renewable energy projects in 2012, the EIA said. That investment is 20 percent higher than investments in renewable energy in 2011.
The WWF report urges China to pursue aggressive energy efficiency initiatives to reduce electricity demand, in addition to increasing development of renewable power sources.
"Both China and the United States are at a crossroads where leaders need to choose between a future where healthy communities are powered by clean, renewable energy or a future darkened by air pollution and the dangerous effects of climate change," Lou Leonard, WWF's U.S. vice president for climate change, said in the release.
The United States and China, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Beijing Saturday, issued a joint statement saying "it is essential to enhance the scale and impact of cooperation on climate change."
"This year, as all countries develop new national climate targets in advance of talks in Paris, our leaders need to choose that brighter future," Leonard said, referring to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to be held in the French capital in December 2015.
"For Chinese leaders the choice is simple," Leonard said. "This report shows that renewables are doable. China can meet bold new targets with today's technologies while cutting energy costs."