China's top climate think tanks push for more cuts to coal use and emissions: report

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s leading climate think tanks are pushing for cuts to carbon emissions and coal use over the next five years, according to speeches and a major report China’s top experts on climate change and emissions issued on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Workers wipe dust off road barriers near the Walnut Valley coal mine that is part of Huaneng Group's integrated coal power project, near Qingyang, Ning County, Gansu province, China, September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

The report summarises key findings of 18 government think tank studies, and was published by the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University, to mark the start of a climate seminar in Beijing.

In attendance were some of China’s leading climate experts, including Xie Zhenhua, a special adviser on Climate Change Affairs of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), and Zhao Yingmin, vice-minister of the MEE, both of whom are expected to help frame China’s main climate goals for 2021-2025.

“China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emission from coal sectors by 2025 and even realise negative growth”, said He Jiankun, vice director of the National Export Committee on Climate Change, and a report contributor, at a keynote speech at the seminar.

“China is still expected to see growth of natural gas consumption in 2026-2030, so the growth of carbon emission from gas use should be offset by the reduction from coal sector,” He added.

The country, which is responsible for about 29% of global carbon dioxide emissions, is expected to endorse ambitious climate-related goals and possibly lower economic growth targets at the upcoming Communist Party conclave, which will determine development blueprints for 2021-2025.

The report made clear that immediate cuts to total energy consumption were required to keep temperature increases to within 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, and stated that even a 2 degree increase would require cutting the share of coal in total energy consumption to 15% by 2050, down from 57.7% in 2019.

The report also called for China to cut its carbon intensity - the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per GDP unit - by 65% by 2030 from 2015 levels, and raise non-fossil fuel consumption to 25% by 2030.

Those targets would be higher than China’s pledges as part of the Paris Accord, which called for reducing carbon intensity by 60-65% and for non-fossil fuels to account for 20% of primary energy consumption.

The calls for lower emissions come as China’s overall energy needs keep rising.

China’s total energy consumption could reach 5.5 billion tonnes of standard coal in 2025, up 13.2% from 2019 levels, the report said, assuming annual gross domestic product growth is more than 5% during the 14th-five year plan period from 2021-2025.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh. Editing by Gerry Doyle