Chinese legislators will debate a new resolution on climate change next week, the state media reported today as a high-powered research institute called for the country to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
The moves indicate possible flexibility in the negotiating stance of the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases ahead of climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of this year, but, even if adopted, are far from sufficient to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.
A new climate change resolution and amendment to the renewable energy law are on the agenda of the next bimonthly session of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, according to the Xinhua news agency.
It revealed few details, but hopes for a set of more ambitious targets were raised by state media reports that a high-powered thinktank has called for emissions to fall by 2030.
China has refused to set a cap on emissions because it wants to expand its economy to catch up with richer nations that historically pumped more carbon into the atmosphere during the process of development.
That official position has not changed, but several government-linked institutes have projected possible pathways for the emissions to peak.
The most authoritative of them, the nearly 900-page 2050 China Energy and CO2 emissions report sets out several scenarios for change.
The most optimistic of them sees a fall by 2030, but this would require huge investments in renewable energy as well as financial and technical support from overseas.
“I think it is realistic, but the cost will be relatively high, and there are also certain requirements on technology and policy that must be reached,” Jiang Kejun, of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission and one of the authors of the study, told The Associated Press.
The panel advised the government to invest 1 trillion yuan into low-carbon technology development each year until 2050.
“The money would be mainly used to introduce technologies that would raise the energy efficiency of end-users in industry, construction and transportation,” Bai Quan, another panel member, was quoted as saying by The China Daily.
Even if these recommendations were adopted and achieved, it is extremely unlikely they would be sufficient to prevent carbon levels in the atmosphere from reaching levels that scientists warn would result in devastating climate change.
The study forecasts China to account for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, by which time its economy will be bigger than that of the United States.
Amid mounting international approbrium, China has signalled that it may be willing to adopt carbon intensity targets relative to economic growth and to make a huge investment in “new energy”, including nuclear, solar and more efficient coal plants.
China’s top climate envoy, Yu Qingtai, said last month that Beijing would like to see a peak in carbon emissions as soon as possible, but suggested no timetable for when this might happen.