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China's New Leadership Faces Growing Environmental Pressures

World  (tags: asia, china, conflict, ethics, government, politics, society, world, energy, globalwarming, globalwarming, climate-change, climatechange, environment, pollution, healthconditions )

- 1901 days ago -
China has been making progress on its targets for the 12th five-year plan to increase the non-fossil fuel share of primary energy consumption to 11.4 percent by 2015.

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JL A (281)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 6:27 am
China's new leadership faces growing environmental pressures

Wed, 6 Mar 2013 10:30 GMT

Source: alertnet // Chelsea Diana

A worker pushes a cart at a coal factory in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on March 5, 2013. China's new rulers will focus on consumer-led growth to narrow the gap between rich and poor while taking steps to curb pollution and graft, the government said, tackling the main triggers for social unrest in the giant nation. REUTERS/Stringer

(Corrects sixth paragraph to to reflect renewable energy percentage and electricity growth rate.)

By Chelsea Diana

LONDON (AlertNet) - As the Chinese government prepares to make a leadership transition this week, the country faces conflicting pressures as it strives toward economic growth while wanting to reduce emissions.

While the country’s new leaders have declared “ecological progress” will be a priority, analysts at a World Resources Institute-led press teleconference said China must deal with series of inter-linked challenges– economic prosperity, energy security, mitigating climate change and social unrest – to make environmental strides.

Even then, any changes probably won’t be seen until after 2015, when the country’s current five-year environmental plan ends, the analysts said.

“We’re not going to see any big change in 2013, because it is in the middle of China’s 12th five-year plan,” said Melanie Hart, a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress. Still, “the 2011 to 2015 plan is dedicated to move in a low carbon direction,” she said.

China has been making progress on its targets for the 12th five-year plan to increase the non-fossil fuel share of primary energy consumption to 11.4 percent by 2015.


China's use of non-fossil fuels is over 9 percent for 2012, with some estimates at 9.9 percent, compared to about 8.6 percent in 2010. The country’s overall rate of electricity consumption growth fell to 5.5 percent in 2012 from 11.7 percent in 2011, Hart said, reducing expected pressures on the environment.

But, while growth in Chinese coal demand is not as rapid as in the past and not as large as some groups in the U.S. had been projecting, China’s use of coal is still growing.

“It (coal consumption) will still continue to grow and grow exponentially,” said Julio Friedmann, energy technology chief at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States, and technical program manager for the US-China Clean Energy Research Center for Advanced Coal Technology.

Friedmann said he expects a 50 to 60 percent increase in China’s coal consumption in coming years. That’s not as large as some experts had predicted, but even so, “I do not see a plateau in the coming years,” he said.

China’s demand for coal depends largely on the rate of economic growth, though other factors – regulation and environmental policy – also will play a role, said Ailun Yang, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute, during the conference call.


To help hold the line on fossil fuel emissions and pollution, Chinese officials have proposed a carbon tax, which would create costs for companies who emit carbon emissions. But Yang said an expansion of the resource tax to cover coal is more likely.

The resource tax, Yang said, would tax consumers. While proposals for a carbon tax have gotten quieter in the past year, she said, several provinces, including Xinjinag, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou, are already piloting the resource tax with oil, gas and a few mineral resources.

While some of the initiatives sound promising, Yang said she did not expect any dramatic position changes by China’s new leadership.

But Hart said China recognises the very serious pressure it is under now that the country is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. As the U.S. moves toward natural gas and away from coal with shale gas development, China is in a more precarious position if they can no longer “point toward the U.S. as the bad guy,” she said.

“They (China) are not going to be able to put themselves in the same bucket as developing countries like Sudan much longer,” Hart said. “China needs some recognition that they are no longer a developing country and since they are the largest emitter they need to take on responsibility.”

Chelsea Diana is an AlertNet Climate intern.

Süheyla C (234)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 6:36 am
Thank you J.L.

Kit B (276)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 9:52 am

I think China is the only country that still works to adhere to the FIVE year plan, even when that plan is against their own best interest. Maybe the pressures of reality will finally break this intransigence, time will tell. I guess most of us remember the countless times the USSR had to make excuses for making changes to the 5 year plan, frankly I applaud the ability of countries to be flexible to unforeseen changes. China has as many challenges as any of the countries working to achieve a highly developed status without complete internal break down. Let's hope they find an agreeable and honest compromise for the sake of the people.

JL A (281)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 10:19 am
You are welcome Suheyla. Thanks for sharing insights into China's challenges Kit.
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 10:53 am
Noted thanks

Stephen Brian (23)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 11:51 am
There are pilot projects underway right now that could potentially fix one of China's major environmental problems by transforming the coal-power industry globally. If the trace-elements in coal are constant enogh globally, we could see the end of coal-burning plants in wealthy nations as one of those trace-elements (thorium) becomes a more productive and dramatically cleaner energy-source than the coal in which it is found.

JL A (281)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 12:11 pm
You are welcome Carol. That sure sounds promising Stephen!

David Anderson (72)
Thursday March 7, 2013, 10:18 pm
China's leadership facing environmental pressure? I seem to recall some 24 years ago we were hearing how China's leadership was facing pressure for civil rights, freedom, and democracy which it supposedly would not be able to ignore. Shortly thereafter, there was an incident immediately to the south of Beijing's Forbidden City with the highlight being a certain man faced down a tank on foot.

Sherri G (128)
Friday March 8, 2013, 2:18 am
Thanks JL for the news. We all have to hope that China and the US are successful in cutting their need for fossil fuel or we all are stupid and we all will die in this generation or the next.

Past Member (0)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 6:59 am
As predicted, first develop a middle class, then comes change.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 7:14 am
You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last day.

P A (117)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 9:47 am
Thanks JLA - if only China decided to protect it's own citizens and stop polluting them to early graves that would be something - and hopefully they would then think about Green Energy!
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