China set to cap energy use

Updated: 2011-08-05 09:14


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A cap on Chinese energy consumption is expected to be the highlight of a comprehensive low-carbon plan to be issued later this year, Reuters reported Thursday, citing experts.

Capping energy use will form the cornerstone of China's efforts to curb surging greenhouse gas emissions, the world's highest and making up a quarter of the global total.

China is using the fight against climate change to make its economy more efficient and kick-start emissions trading schemes over the next five years.

"If you have a total energy cap you can translate that into an emissions number or trade energy credits -- it gives a lot of different options," said Deborah Seligsohn, a climate policy expert working for the World Resources Institute in Beijing.

"You can use a cap for lots of other purposes but you need a ceiling to create the incentive to trade," she said.

A five-year plan to improve energy efficiency, cut greenhouse gases and tackle pollution was approved last month by a panel set up by China's cabinet, the State Council, and chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Han Wenke, the head of the Energy Research Institute, a government think-tank, told a meeting this week it will be formally passed later this year once recommendations from other government departments have been collected.

Few surprises are expected, with many of China's five-year carbon dioxide (CO2), energy and pollution targets already confirmed. But formal recognition is likely to be given to six pilot low-carbon zones in the provinces of Guangdong and Hubei and the cities of Tianjin, Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai.

Government officials seem to have settled on a total energy cap of 4.1 billion tons of coal equivalent by 2015, more than 25 percent higher than last year, following months of behind-the-scenes wrangling.

Zhang Guobao, formerly China's senior energy official, told Xinhua after his retirement in March that the cap would stand at 4 billion TCE, and some scholars involved in the discussions last year were proposing a figure as low as 3.6 billion TCE.

"The number is definitely at the higher end, there's no doubt about that, and this tells you how fierce the debate has been internally," said Wu Changhua, China representative with London-based NGO The Climate Group.

"But it is a good starting point. There were a lot of very aggressive scholars arguing forcefully for a much lower cap, saying there is no way we can carry on like this, but there were also moments of doubt whether the cap would be there or not."


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