China to launch action plan for carbon emissions to fall after 2030

Out-Law News | 10 Mar 2021 | 5:47 am | 2 min. read

China will set up an action plan to ensure that its peak carbon emissions will have happened by 2030. It will refine its structures in industry and energy, according to a China’s government work report .

The announcement was made during the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) annual sessions.

China aims to reach emissions peak by 2030 and reach net zero by 2060, it said.

It plans to use coal in a more clean and efficient way and will develop new energy sources and nuclear energy.

It plans to build up domestic energy use rights, establish a carbon emissions trading market, and establish a regime on dual control of energy consumption.

Energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be reduced by 13.5% and 18% respectively during the 14th five-year plan, it said.

John Yeap of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “China’s industrial growth over the past two to three decades has been nothing short of spectacular, establishing a strong industrial capability and in the process alleviating poverty and creating a sizeable middle class. China's leadership has understood the need to mitigate the environmental consequences of economic growth and since the 10th five-year plan of 2005, China’s economic planning has emphasised the need for environmental protection and pollution control.”

“By setting a peak carbon date of 2030 and carbon neutrality date of 2060, China has signalled its vision and commitment in working towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. In this regard, the go-forward focus of not just increasing renewables and nuclear, but also a focus on demand side management and industrial and energy sector reforms, indicates China is prepared to deploy a wide range of options to meet its net zero commitment,” Yeap said. 

“There will be those who will be of the view that China’s road map should be more aggressive, particularly around coal and the delay of peak carbon to 2030. The world’s attention will be on COP 26 later this year when the nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) submitted by nations will be discussed, and it would be more instructive to view China’s commitments in that context. However, the reality is that China’s growing economy with increasing energy needs means decarbonisation has to be balanced with sustaining that growth," said Yeap.

"China has the ability to play the long game with energy policies that can be fine-tuned in response to science and economic needs, and which are not subject to the vagaries of political agendas. It therefore has the economic and governmental levers to pull when necessary to adjust its energy policy, and we may see such adjustments in the future should they be required,” he said.

“For now, China has already witnessed a 18.8% drop in its carbon intensity in the five years to 2020. It has also demonstrated its ability to adopt new technology quickly. For instance its adoption of offshore wind is around a decade after the UK, but its installed capacity today is comparable to the UK and is set to surpass the UK this year and be home to the largest installed capacity of offshore wind. It should therefore be able to readily deploy technological advances in its decarbonisation agenda as they become viable. The indications therefore are that China has both the will and the ability to meet its decarbonisation challenges whilst managing its growing economy,” he said.

China launched its target in September to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.