China ‘can grow economy without emission rise’

China can curb its rapid growth in emissions while continuing to grow its economy if it focuses on energy efficiency and renewables, a report has found.

Emissions will stabilise at their current level by 2050 while the economy continues to grow at an annual 7% until 2010 and at 5% after 2010, according to the Sustainable China Energy Outlook report from Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council.

China’s current economic growth of around 10% a year is causing the country massive environmental damage, and it behind soaring carbon emissions that are about to overtake the US as the world’s highest (see related story).

To stabilise emissions by 2050 China needs to move away from coal, which currently provides 70% of the country’s energy, substantially raise wind power targets and reduce energy use per unit GDP produced by 23.7% by 2010.

The energy efficiency improvement advocated by Greenpeace is only slightly above the Chinese government’s own goal of decreasing energy consumption per unit GDP by 20% by 2010.

China’s renewables targets fall below those proposed by Greenpeace and EREC, however. The Chinese government wants 16% of the country’s primary energy to come from renewables by 2020, most of which would be generated by hydroelectric dams (300GW), and the remainder by wind (30GW) and solar PV (1.8GW). According to the Sustainable Energy Outlook report China has the potential and capacity to develop 118GW of wind power – four times the government target – and 25GW of solar PV by 2020.

“Greenpeace calls for the Government to implement its target to limit the growth of energy consumption as China continues to develop, and also to introduce strong policies such as feed-in-tariffs to support the development of wind and solar PV industries in China,” said Yang Ailun, Greenpeace China climate and energy campaign manager.

The environmental group also called on the Asian Development Bank and China Light & Power Co. Ltd (CLP) to lead a shift away from coal.

China’s economic growth has pulled millions out of poverty and dramatically raised living standards for some Chinese, especially those living in urban areas.

But while company profits filter through to society, they are also costing it in water, air and land pollution and these costs are likely to soar further. A tenth of Chinese farmland is already contaminated, for example, and agricultural land surface is shrinking, which will affect food production in the future (see related story.

Greenpeace calculates that every dollar of the state power company CLP’s profits is costing the Chinese three dollars in clean-up costs, Reuters reported Athena Ballesteros, climate and energy campaigner for Asia, as saying.

Goska Romanowicz

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