Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Issue Brief Finds that China’s Emission-Reduction Promises are More than Just Empty Words
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Issue Brief Finds that China’s Emission-Reduction Promises are More than Just Empty Words

Washington, D.C. — China’s leadership spurring emission-reduction commitments among developing nations has been credited as one driving force in what many believe will be a successful climate agreement in Paris. However, some have been skeptical of China’s commitment to meet its new 2030 climate targets, arguing that the 15 year time frame amounts to a 15 year grace period to continue with business-as-usual coal consumption and emissions. Others question the validity of China’s claims and cite a recent adjustment in the nation’s coal statistics as evidence that Chinese data cannot be trusted.

However, new research conducted by the Center for American Progress shows that China’s commitment to its carbon reduction is very real and that the nation is already taking significant steps to meet those goals.

“China’s commitment to carbon reduction has been one of many factors driving what could be the most important climate change agreement in decades,” said Melanie Hart, Director of China Policy at CAP and author of the issue brief. “Instead of waiting until 2030 to make important changes, Beijing is already taking dramatic steps to reduce coal consumption and emissions. Chinese leaders have no choice—they have to act now because their people are demanding cleaner air, and the steps Beijing is taking to address air pollution are bringing down carbon emissions as well. This is not a country biding its time until the clock runs out. Rather, the Chinese Communist Party is racing against the clock to address citizen discontent over air pollution, and that race is proving to be a critical factor in the fight to combat global climate change as well.”

Coal is—and likely will remain for quite some time—China’s primary way of powering its growth. However, changes are definitely underway. Using coal market patterns as an indicator of China’s progress, CAP’s issue brief shows a dramatic shift in recent years. These changes include:

  • Chinese coal consumption fell 2.9 percent in 2014, marking the first fall in consumption in 15 years.
  • China’s coal imports fell 11 percent in 2014 and are down 37 percent thus far in 2015.
  • In 2014, Beijing shut down over 1,000 coal mines, 5 gigawatts of thermal power capacity, and 55,000 small-scale coal-fired industrial boilers to reduce coal pollution.
  • At the regional level, Beijing is rolling out fast-track provincial- and municipal-level coal-control and emission-reduction policies that are putting some Chinese provinces and cities on a path to peak emissions as early as 2020 or 2022. The regions covered under this program account for over 66 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP.
  • China now has over 444 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity—which is more than the combined total 2012 electricity generation capacity of Japan, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom—and around 40 percent of total 2012 U.S. generation capacity.

Click here to read the issue brief.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.