China cuts coal, emissions still growing

July 6, 2010 at 1:27 PM
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BEIJING, July 6 (UPI) -- China is likely to reach its target of closing small coal-fired power plants totaling 10 million kilowatts of capacity by August, said a government official.

That's in addition to 60.06 million kilowatts that have been shut down from 2006-09.

"We have promised to the international community that 15 percent of our power will be generated from non-fossil sources by 2020," said Zhang Guobao, director of the National Energy Administration, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.

Non-fossil energy accounts for around 7.8 percent of China's energy.

The government, Zhang said, is readjusting its energy structure by giving priority to the development of clean and low-carbon energies, including hydroelectric, nuclear, wind and solar power.

China -- the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases -- pledged last November in advance of the December U.N. climate change conference to cut its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

But even though China has doubled its wind and solar energy for the fifth consecutive year, its emissions from fossil-fuel combustion, which includes burning waste gas from oil drilling and other industrial operations, increased by 9 percent last year, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency says, The New York Times reports.

By comparison, emissions across other parts of the world, such as in the European Union, Japan and the United States, decreased by 7 percent the same year.

The agency said last week that China's per capita emissions in 2009 were 6.1 tons, up from 2.2 tons in 1990. It attributes China's rise in emissions to the country's massive economic development, warning that its per capita emissions are quickly approaching levels seen in industrialized countries.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao said in May that while the country's energy efficiency had improved by more than 14 percent from 2005 to 2009, it had deteriorated by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year.

And last month Gao Shixian, an energy official at China's National Development and Reform Commission admitted during a speech at the Clean Energy Expo China that the country faces "an arduous task" just to reach its existing energy-efficiency goals, The New York Times reports.

If China isn't able to meet these goals, the risk of avoiding widespread environmental damage from a rise in temperatures is "very close to zero," said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency in Paris.

The IEA estimates that by 2020, China's emissions of energy-related greenhouse gases would increase more than the rest of the world's combined increase.

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