China going green at rapid, near-record rate

Updated: 2016-03-07 11:08

By Hua Shengdun in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China is making great strides in its green-energy efforts, according to an environmental expert.

"China broke records last year in the installation of wind and solar power," said Manish Bapna, executive vice-president of the World Resources Institute. "Clean energy investment was over $110 billion, twice what the US invested."

The investments are part of China's commitment to phase out the use of coal for energy. Bapna spoke at a press teleconference about China's 13th Five-Year Plan and how it will affect climate and energy at the World Resources Institute in Washington on March 4.

"China has committed to a new kind of economic development. It sees a move from real dependence on heavy industry toward service and innovation, and particularly a more consumption-based economy," said Kate Gordon, vice-chairwoman of climate and sustainable urbanization at the Paulson Institute.

"China has already been taking a slew of actions to cut its use of coal, which is responsible for about 80 percent of its CO2 emissions and about 50 to 60 percent of its most damaging form (of air pollution), PM (particulate matter) 2.5," said Barbara Finamore, Asia director at the National Resources Defense Council.

Individual cities and provinces have decided to impose their own limits on carbon emissions.

"There are 20 provinces and 30 cities that have already set some sort of coal-cap targets," Finamore said. "And for some, that means an absolute cap on coal consumption; for some this means no more increase, and for many, they set coal-consumption-reduction targets."

Despite good news on the environmental front, China's economic focus on creating a "green manufacturing strategy" and shift from growth driven by investment and exports to one driven by consumption has come with a price: job loss.

According to preliminary forecasts, a total of 1.8 million workers will be laid off in the coal and steel sectors. The central government will allocate 100 billion yuan ($15.4 billion) over two years to help the laid-off workers find new jobs, according to media reports.

China's draft 13th Five-Year Plan will be reviewed at the annual session of the national legislature, which opened on March 5. Experts are optimistic that China will continue to improve its environmental protection efforts through the legislative process.

"Expectations are fairly high about what might be contained not only in the 13th Five-Year Plan, but perhaps as importantly, the following sectorial plans," Bapna said.

"And I think we're quite keen to see whether this shift that we have started to see over the past several years takes on a more accelerated step change in the coming five years."

Allan Fong in Washington contributed to this story.