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Energy conservation, efficiency highlighted
By Mai Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-28 00:43

China is shifting the national energy policy by putting its first priority on energy conservation and improving the energy efficiency from its previous emphasis on energy exploitation.

The move will help the country control the emission of carbon dioxide to meet possible Kyoto Protocol obligations years ahead of schedule, experts said.

The Kyoto Protocol, which aims to control the "greenhouse" gas emissions that cause global warming, is expected to take effect as of next February.

The protocol imposes cuts in emissions of the polluting gases by 5.2 per cent from the level of 1990 by 2010 for most industrialized countries.

Developing countries including China and India have no legal biding for the carbon dioxide cut before 2012. A signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, China is likely to commit certain obligations years ahead of the requirements.

Ni Weidou, a thermal engineering professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the government is working hard to improve energy conservation and efficiency which can effectively help China prepare for the Kyoto Protocol.

Energy consumption, including burning coal and oil, account for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming.

According to the government's blueprint, the energy consumption for every 10,000 yuan (US$1,210) gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to drop by 16 per cent from 2.68 tons of coal equivalent in 2002 to 2.25 tons in 2010.

By 2020, the average consumption will further reduce to 1.54 tons of coal equivalent, 43 per cent lower the level in 2002.

By 2010, the energy consumption efficiency of major industrial products, such as steel, aluminum and electricity, is expected to reach the level of developed countries in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, the country is strengthening promotion of the shares of renewable energy, such as hydropower, wind power, bio-mass and solar energy, in the total consumption mix to 10 per cent by 2020 from the current less than 1 per cent.

"These efforts are not specifically designated for the Kyoto Protocol, but surely will benefit the country," Ni said in a telephone interview.

China has valid grounding not to hold obligations to the Kyoto Protocol for the time being, Ni said.

Even though China is now the world's second largest carbon dioxide polluter after the United States, its emission per capita is far below most developed countries.

China's per capita emissions are one sixth the average of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, and one eighth that of the United States.

From a historical perspective, Ni said developed countries produced the lion's share of carbon dioxide emissions during their industrialization period.

"It is not reasonable to require developing countries to share the responsibilities of developed countries," Ni said.

China, however, is facing increasing pressure of greenhouse gas emissions.

After experiencing GDP growth of 204 per cent since 1990, Chinese carbon dioxide pollution increased by 44.5 per cent to 3.31 billion tons in 2002.

The emission of carbon dioxide is likely to more than double to as much as 6.6 billion tons by 2020, according to a research report by the Energy Research Institute under the National Development Reform Commission,

Pan Jiahua, an analyst with the China Academy of Social Sciences, said in a recent research report: "How to co-ordinate the relations between the industrialization and control of greenhouse gas emissions is a serious challenge for China in the coming 20-50 years."

Comprehensive measures, including energy conservation, the promotion of renewable energy and a change in people's consumption behavior, should be taken to curb the emission of the polluting gases.

Pan emphasized that technology innovation play an important role in reducing the greenhouse gas emission.

Experts said the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol can and will help siphon foreign investment into the development of clean energy technology in China.

According to the so-called quota-trading mechanism, developed countries can fulfill some of their greenhouse gas emission-reduction commitments through financing related projects in developing countries where costs are much cheaper.

In the latest development, China signed a greenhouse gas emission reductions purchase agreement with the World Bank early this month.

According to the agreement, the World Bank will invest in capturing the methane released from a coal mine in Shanxi Province in North China and will then sell the reductions to a World Bank partnership.

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