According to a statement made today, China will also aim to cut its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% compared to 2005 levels and increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption by 20% by 2030.

After a meeting with French President Hollande, Chinese Prime Minister Li Kepiang said: “China’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date.”

China’s commitment confirms its plans for cutting carbon emissions and comes ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December.

The announcement echoes the US-China emissions deal in November last year, in which China first announced it would cap its emissions output by 2030.

Commenting on the announcement, Lord Oxburgh, former Shell Chairman and member of the Advisory Board of the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “This pledge by China shows that it is absolutely serious about taking the risks of climate change seriously and taking action to mitigate them.

“China also tends to be conservative on targets like this, so it seems likely that Chinese emissions will peak before 2030. For doubters who question the feasibility of cutting fossil fuel use and scaling up renewable energy, China is living proof of what can be achieved, even in major economies, and I have no doubt that we will once again be astonished by Chinese progress.”

Former ambassador to the United Nations Sir Crispin Tickell said China’s pledge “confirms the determination of the Chinese Government to cope with the crucial problems, in particular water shortages and air pollution, which affect the rest of the world as well as China.”

First step

China has previously been seen as a potential barrier to a deal on tackling climate change ahead of the Paris climate conference in December.

Li Shuo, climate analyst for Greenpeace China, said: “China has only ever been on defence when it comes to climate change, but today’s announcement is the first step for a more active role. For success in Paris, however, all players – including China and the EU – need to up their game.”

Shuo added the pledge must be seen as a starting point for ambitious action in China. “It does not fully reflect the significant energy transition that is already taking place in China,” said Shuo. “Given the dramatic fall in coal consumption, robust renewable energy uptake, and the urgent need to address air pollution, we believe the country can go well beyond what it has proposed today.”

Game changer

Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor Mohamed Adow said the announcement could herald a “new era” for climate politics.

“Its commitment to scaling up renewables to 20% of total output is particularly encouraging,” said Adow. “It will soon deploy nearly as much renewable power alone as the total US energy sector. It’s a game changer.”

China remains the world’s largest CO2 emitter, but has in recent months begun to move towards targeting more clean energy and reducing coal consumption. In May this year, China announced it had cut its coal consumption by 8% in the first four months of 2015.

Matt Field

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