Rhein on Energy and Climate

That is what Pheng Guagong, Head of the Meteorological Administration, has demanded March 22 in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency.

Climate change is a serious threat for China. The temperature rises already higher than the global average. Droughts and floods risk food supplies. Chinese leaders have failed to lay out the full scale of the climate problem and set specific targets for cutting green house gas emissions. China needs to pursue a lower carbon future.

Four months after the “deal” with the USA under which the Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared that China aims at peaking its C02 emissions and doubling the share of non-fossil energy from 13 per cent in 2014 to 26 per cent in 2030 this demand by the top weather scientist for more effectively reducing emissions shows the seriousness of the climate perspectives and the more open debate in China.

It complements the message of the documentary film “Under the Dome” about China`s pollution crisis, published February 28 on the People`s Daily Website, and the warning by President Xi Jinping that the government will punish anybody destroying the environment.

Climate change and unsustainable pollution levels might also one of the causes for reducing Chinese economic growth projections to no more than 7 per cent for 2015.

All this demonstrates a change of attitude; but it is far from enough for a successful outcome of the Paris Climate Conference in Paris at the end of the year.

China contributes almost 30 per cent to global emissions. That share is bound to grow considering China’s continuing fast economic growth and the West’s economic stagnation. China already emits three times as much as the EU and has overtaken it in terms of GDP CO2 emissions.

It seems determined to let the economy grow rapidly, say more than five per cent annually until 2030. Unless the government takes dramatic action to decouple fossil energy input and economic growth Chinese CO2 emissions might double again until 2030. This would be catastrophe for Chine and the earth.

The Chinese government must therefore not wait another 15 years before peaking its emissions. That would be suicidal for China and make it unlike for Humanity to contain the temperature increase within two centigrade.

China should rapidly phase out its inefficient coal-fired electricity plants and make coal and coal-fired electricity more expensive to give users and investors an incentive to switch to gas and non-fossil energy sources like sun, wind or even nuclear.

Hopefully, the intense debate about environment and climate in China since the beginning of 2015 will continue during the next months and push the government to be more forthcoming at the Paris Climate Conference than it had intended so far.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 26.03. 2015

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