China set to surpass its climate targets

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The use of wind and solar energy has surged to record levels in China during 2015, and renewable energy is helping the country to pivot away from coal, which still provides two-thirds of its power.

China, now the largest energy consumer in the world, is surging ahead in switching away from coal in what its officials say will allow it to surpass its carbon emissions targets.

The country’s solar energy capacity last year has soared 74 per cent since 2014 and its wind energy capacity has risen by 34 per cent in the same time frame, according to figures issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics yesterday.

Meanwhile, China has seen a 3.7 per cent fall in its consumption of the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, coal, with imports down by a substantial 30 per cent. Its decrease in coal consumption over the last two years equals an entire year’s coal consumption in Japan.

The figures back up claims last month in Hong Kong by Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator at at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, that the country will ‘far surpass’ its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of national wealth (GDP) by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels.

China produces nearly a third of the world’s carbon dioxide. As such this could make a major contribution to keeping to the 2 °C degree maximum global target agreed at the Paris talks.

In an interview with New Scientist earlier this week, Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics said: “The latest figures confirm China’s record-breaking shift toward renewable power and away from coal.

“China’s official 2015 wind installations are an all-time global record of 32.5 gigawatts,” says Buckley. “China itself is the only nation to have come anywhere near this, delivering 20.7 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2014.”

China is due to issue its next five-year economic plan this month. Despite renewables gains, coal still provides almost two-thirds of China’s power consumption. China’s decrease in coal consumption over the past two years suggests that China may now have reached “peak coal.”

With China’s continued pivot towards renewable energy, the worlds top polluter is proving itself to be a major player in the battle against climate change.

The full figures document can be found here.

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Photo Credit: P Bibler from Flickr.

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