China has done its part on fighting climate change

Updated: 2011-11-28 16:06


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BEIJING - The past decade has seen China achieve remarkable results in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and dutifully shouldering its responsibilities in the global fight against climate change.

According to a government white paper released Tuesday, China has accomplished the energy conservation goals listed in its 11th Five-Year Plan covering 2006-2010.

China's energy consumption per unit of the GDP dropped 19.1 percent from that of 2005 accumulatively, equivalent to a reduction of 1.46 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The numbers testify to China's tremendous efforts in curbing carbon emissions and its unquestionable contributions to the world at large.

The Foreign Ministry says China is the world's fastest country in developing new energy, has the largest size of afforestation, and has achieved the biggest reduction in carbon emissions.

In a bid to promote public awareness and stimulate concrete actions, China said it will "actively respond to climate change" in the 12th Five-Year Plan for 2011-2015. That's by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and afforestation, among other things, marking the first time that climate change has appeared in China's national Five-Year Plan.

The remarkable achievements are backed up by a national understanding of the necessity to balance economic and environmental priorities.

Addressing climate change is viewed by the Chinese government as a commitment to fulfill not only China's international obligations, but also its domestic need for sustainable development.

With its domestic economy expanding at some 10 percent every year, China has nevertheless been facing rising environmental costs.

Environmental degradation, increased carbon emissions, accelerated consumption of natural resources and aggravated water shortages in some areas all take a toll on people's daily lives.

Under such circumstances, the Chinese government earlier this year lowered its GDP growth target for the next five years to 7 percent, establishing a common understanding nationwide that a healthy economy is much more important than numerical miracles.

On carbon emission cuts, China in 2006 established a goal of reducing its per-unit GDP energy consumption in 2010 by 20 percent from that of 2005; in 2007, China became the first developing country to formulate and implement a national program to address climate change; two years later, China said it would work to reduce per-unit GDP greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

While an effort is being made, the country's current stage of development offers little room to solve environmental problems all at once.

Currently the second largest economy in the world, China's GDP per capita stood at a small 4,382 U.S. dollars in 2010, ranking 91st in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The systematic measures necessary for reducing carbon emissions for China are more complicated than just to close down more power plants.

China must, through close coordination between central and regional governments, strengthen its legal system and strategic planning, accelerate economic restructuring, optimize energy diversification and develop clean energy, all of which take time and money.

China's fast urbanization and industrialization process urges the government to respond to problems directly related to people's living standards. Those problems include unemployment, a lack of infrastructure, poor education and medical services, all of which require large and cheap supplies of energy.

While carbon emissions cuts are inevitably a step-by-step process for China, the country, with a 1.4 billion population, offers huge opportunity to foreign companies in the environmental sector.

The advanced technologies pioneered by some developed nations to produce clean and renewable energies could significantly lower their production costs and achieve more popularity in the global market by focusing on the Chinese market.

Viewing cooperation as a win-win situation, China is keenly interested in advancing ties with other countries on technology transfers and other developments to tackle climate change together.