Black cloud over China’s green growth

China tripled its solar energy generating capacity last year and notched up major increases in wind and hydropower, government figures indicated recently.

But officials are still struggling to cap the growth in coal burning, which is the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.

The latest evidence of China’s promotion of renewable energy has been welcomed by climate activists but they warn that the benefits are being wiped out by the surge in coal consumption. After burning an extra 95-million tonnes last year China will soon account for half the coal burnt on the planet.

At a key policy-making meeting in Beijing recently Liu Tienan, the director of the National Energy Administration, called for energy use to be kept below 4.1-billion tonnes of coal equivalent per year until 2015. If the proposal is accepted this will be the first time China has set such a ceiling. Until now Beijing has set goals only for energy and carbon intensity, which are related to economic growth and so fluctuate according to gross domestic product (GDP) figures.

But the proposed figure remains the subject of fierce discussion as it was based on an assumption that China’s economy will grow at 7.5% per annum until 2015, by which time the government is supposed to bring down energy intensity (units of energy per unit of GDP) by 16%.

However, provincial governments are projecting a combined economic growth rate of more than 9%, which means they will face a fuel shortfall unless the energy targets are raised or they fail to reach their goals.

Negotiations are held behind closed doors and are likely to last several more months but it is believed that the provinces are arguing for a higher target of between 4.25-billion and five-billion tonnes.

Besides being far from the reality of a slowing economy (the forecast for the first six months of this year is for no more than 7.5% growth), this prospect horrifies environmentalists. “If it goes up to five-billion tonnes, it would be a disaster; China would effectively be promoting high-energy, high-carbon growth,” said Li Yan of Greenpeace.

If accepted, an energy cap would become one of the most important industrial targets in the world because it would largely determine how large a mountain of coal China would burn and, as a result, how much carbon dioxide it would emit.

Depending on how it was structured, such a target could also help or hinder the development of the renewable energy industry.

Yang Fuqiang of the non-governmental organisation National Resources Defence Council, said Chinese energy consumption rose almost threefold from 2 000 to reach 3.2-billion tonnes of coal equivalent in 2010. On present trends it would rise to almost five-billion tonnes by 2020. “China uses too much coal.”

Yang wants the government to change its proposed energy cap into a coal cap, which would allow provincial authorities to grow faster if they used more renewable energy or gas. —

Jonathan Watts
Jonathan Watts works from Bristol, England. Copywriter, Classics MA and author. Bristol, books, gigs, dogs. Jonathan Watts has over 100 followers on Twitter.
Advertisting

Workers fight job-creation ‘mess’

Former Ekurhuleni workers argued in court that a programme promising to equip them with skills simply acted as a labour broker for the municipality

Court dissolves local municipality

Landmark judgment paves the way for South Africans to use legal system to hold councils responsible

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.