China's impressive target for renewable energy could be getting a serious upgrade. "We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy," Zhang Xiaoqiang, the vice-chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told the Telegraph, in London. "We can be sure we will exceed the 15 per cent target. We will at least reach 18 per cent. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20 per cent of total energy consumption."
The upping of the target is not necessarily news. China's been talking about it for years, recently proposing, for instance, that 40 percent of its energy use would come from renewable sources by 2050, or that 35 percent would be standard by 2020. But the strong wording here, and the messenger, indicates more serious moves, and at a politically shrewd moment.
Zhang Xiaoqiang, NDRC
As the U.S. angles (rather quietly) for an agreement with China over emissions caps, Beijing has emphasized its interest instead in reducing emissions only per unit of GDP, while getting developed countries to help boost China's growing green tech sector.
As climate negotiator Todd Stern was meeting with officials in Beijing, David Sandalow, the US assistant secretary of energy, said, "China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change." Even if every other country cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by 80pc, China could trigger a 2.7C rise in global temperatures if it does not act, the Guardian notes.
But China isn't sitting idly by. As John Laumer wrote recently,
While the three developed nations consume themselves with political strategics in preparation for the upcoming Copenhagen climate meeting, China, only hinting at emission cutback commitments, is making its real power play behind the scenes. The renewable energy business in China is booming to record levels and will continue to do so. (A 40% RES, indeed.)
While the US invests its treasure in fending off attacking turbans, China attacks the climate problem with turbines.
That money China used to spend on US Treasury notes might be going toward renewables instead.
Still, as great as targets for energy intensity and renewables are, China's net emissions are still likely to grow, if slower than usual: consumer demand and electrical capacity is set to double by 2020. And it's unlikely that coal, which provides 80% of China's energy, will be disappearing soon.
More on TreeHugger on the climate negotiations
China in 2020: 35 Percent but we Need to Write that Down
U.S.- China Talks: Tea, a Photo Op and Two Big Question Marks