Business / Industries

'Invest in renewable energy transition'

By Lan Lan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-10 09:51

China could decouple its economic growth from its carbon footprint by putting greater emphasis on transition to renewable energies and the improvement of energy efficiency, said the head of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Air quality is a challenge shared by many major cities in the world and a lesson that Beijing and other cities has learned is putting a systematic approach in place, Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said in an interview with China Daily on Monday.

China has begun a long journey that could meet the international standards for air quality in the future and it can move faster by increasing emission standards and optimizing its energy mix from coal toward other sources of energy.

The country has taken a global lead in the installation of renewable energies, yet coal still accounted for 66 percent of China's energy consumption in 2014.

Renewable energy technologies have become more cost competitive and should not only be seen as a niche market.

If looking at production costs alone, coal seems cheaper, but the macroeconomic calculation shifts if the costs of cleaning the air and dealing with health problems are also taken into account, said Steiner.

"I would encourage China to put greater emphasis on investing in the transition of renewable energy and also energy efficiency. Sometimes the best return on investment is to increase energy efficiency, you need less power to achieve the same amount of GDP," he said.

Ecological civilization and green growth have been highlighted in the proposals for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).

Steiner said it's a "fascinating moment in history" that China has incorporated eco-civilization into its future development path. Also, it will create new opportunities in the ecological restoration and renewable energy technology sector.

Also, a very encouraging sign in Beijing and other cities in China is the high public awareness. Real time information or data is being released by monitoring stations on smartphone applications of and on the Internet.

"Everybody in the cities has become part of the effort to change the carbon footprint," he said.

Meanwhile, China revised its output of coal from 3.68 billion tons to 3.97 billion tons in February, which has led to claims that the nation released more carbon dioxide than previously thought.

"China could have chosen not to correct the latest estimation, so I welcome the fact that China is reporting as accurate as it can," said Steiner.

"From a global perspective, this correction does not change the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere because we already have global ways of measuring that, but for China, it's a change in footprint that it carries within the global number," he said.

Scientists observe and calculate the global carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere by direct monitoring, reporting and verification, rather than consolidated from countries' reporting of their emissions based on their own methodologies, Greenovation Hub, a Chinese non profit organization, said in a report.

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