China govt think tank urges early CO2 cap

China should aim to cap its carbon emissions in the upcoming five-year plan (2016-2020) so that a promised peak in 2030 is acheived, a scientist with a government think tank has proposed

Wang Yi, a representative to China’s communist-dominated legislature and director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Policy and Management, has proposed a science-based carbon cap to ensure China achieves peak carbon on schedule.

Based on predictions made in 2013 by a number of research institutions, Wang expects China’s carbon emissions to peak at about 11 billion tonnes in around 2030. 

According to Wang’s proposal, a carbon cap is required if peak carbon is to be achieved by 2030, although reaching that goal is seen as having stronger motivation compared to Chinese policy earlier this decade. The 13th FYP aims at a more sustainable pace of economic growth and attempts to curb chronic air pollution. 

In the November 2014 China-US Joint Statement on Climate Change, China announced that carbon emissions would peak around 2030 – but did not say at what level.

Wang has long been a proponent of energy and carbon intensity targets, and an overall carbon cap that could also help in the fight against smog.

See also: A carbon cap would show China’s determination to tackle climate change

Those existing targets include a 40%-45% drop in carbon intensity on 2005 levels by 2020; increasing non-fossil fuel sources of energy to 15% of the energy mix by 2020 and 20% by 2030; and for primary energy consumption to be held at about 4.8 billion tonnes of coal equivalent.

The Chinese government has also mandated that total coal consumption should be capped around 4.2 billion tonnes by 2020.

Research bodies including Tsinghua University’s Laboratory of Low Carbon Energy and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have predicted that China’s total carbon emissions from energy consumption would peak at about 11 billion tonnes in 2030.

Wang’s proposal says a carbon cap would avoid possible restrictions on economic growth that might result from a simple energy cap, and allow space for development of clean energy.

A cap also provides the foundation for carbon markets and quotas, by sending a long-term price signal to individual companies.