Business / Green China

Cutting emissions doesn't mean slower economic growth

By DU JUAN (China Daily) Updated: 2013-09-11 08:49

There are policy choices for countries globally to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change without affecting their economic growth, said a senior official with the International Energy Agency.

"The world is still moving in the wrong direction," said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the agency in Beijing on Tuesday.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2013 report released by the agency, global carbon emissions grew by 1.4 percent in 2012 despite positive developments in some countries including China and the United States.

"Global greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing rapidly. In May 2013, carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in several hundred millennia," said the report.

Birol believes that global action is not yet sufficient to limit the global temperature rise by 2 degrees Celsius. The target still remains technically feasible but extremely challenging.

Since the energy sector accounts for around two-thirds of greenhouse-gas emissions and that more than 80 percent of global energy consumption is based on fossil fuels, the agency said greater efforts are needed in this sector to reduce emissions.

The agency presented four policy measures that can help to keep the door open to the 2C target through to 2020 at no net economic cost.

The four measures include adopting specific energy efficiency measures, limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants, minimizing methane emissions from upstream oil and gas production and accelerating the reduction in subsidies to fossil-fuel use.

The measures the agency has proposed are highly consistent with what China has been doing, said Zou Ji, deputy director general of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation.

He said the first two policies are both about raising energy efficiency, which accounts for around 70 percent of the contribution to emission reduction.

"China is still at the left hand of the peak energy consumption at present, which means that improving energy efficiency will continue to be a major task to reduce carbon emissions by 2020 and even after that," he said.

"China has been and will continue to be committed to the basic State policy of conserving resources and protecting the environment," said Su Wei, director general of the Department of Climate Change under the National Development and Reform Commission.

By 2015, energy consumption for every unit of GDP in the country would be reduced by 16 percent and carbon per unit of GDP by 17 percent as compared with that in 2010, said Su.

"China achieved around 8 percent economic growth with an energy demand growth decline in 2012, which is very impressive," said Birol.

According to the agency’s report, China’s carbon emission growth in 2012 was one of the lowest it has seen in a decade, driven largely by the development of renewable energy and a significant improvement in the energy intensity of its economy.

In the United States, a country hugely benefiting from shale gas development, a switch from coal to gas in power generation helped reduce emissions by 200 million tons, bringing them back to the level of the mid-1990s.

Emission reductions also take place in Europe, which is suffering from economic contraction. Despite an increase in coal use, emissions in Europe declined by 50 million tons, affected by the weak economy, growth in renewable energy and a cap on emissions from the industry and power sectors.

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