China strikes balance between economic development and environmental goals

By GT staff reporters (Global Times) 10:45, December 06, 2023

China is proactively reducing its consumption of fossil fuels and is shepherding the research and development of renewable energy, which are solid guarantees that the country will steadfastly achieve its green energy targets, said experts in response to Western media’s criticism of China for being silent on promising to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Countries at the United Nations’ COP28 climate conference in the UAE are considering calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels as part of the summit’s final deal, according to a draft negotiating text seen by the Straits Times on Tuesday.

Phasing out fossil fuels has become a focal topic in this year’s COP. Many foreign media have targeted China, along with other countries, for not acting proactively enough to cut off the use of forms of dirty energy, and for being silent on making promises.

The Straits Times cited a Global Carbon Budget report published on Tuesday which said that CO2 emissions from coal, oil and gas are still rising, driven by India and China. German media Deutsche Welle pointed the finger at both China and the US for being silent on phasing out coal.

China has been active in reducing the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels in recent years, and is shepherding the world in R&D of renewable energy, said Wang Mou from the research center of urban and environment studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He noted that China is definitely on track to meet its target of achieving peak carbon before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.

China has achieved a significant milestone as its installed capacity of non-fossil energy power generation now accounts for 50.9 percent of the country’s total capacity, media reported in June this year.

This achievement surpasses the initial goal of surpassing fossil fuel plants by 2025.

When attending a forum in September this year, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, said that eliminating all fossil fuels is not realistic.

He said that energy transition should respect the national conditions of each country. Moreover, the intermittency of renewable energy should also be considered. In the absence of mature technologies such as large-scale energy storage and transmission, fossil fuels are needed to play a flexible adjustment and backup role to support stable energy supply, and safeguard economic and social development.

Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, who is also attending COP28 in Dubai at the moment, told the Global Times that many countries, especially major economies, are facing great difficulties in phasing out fossil fuels, especially under the current geopolitical tussles, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, which have stirred up chaos in the global energy market.

Coal demand in Europe went up for the second consecutive year in 2022, led by “strong growth” in electricity generation, where it has partly replaced gas as a backup power source, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as Europe cut off gas supply from Russia.

The president of COP28, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, sparked controversies as he claimed during the event that there is “no science” indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C. He also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

Wang said that China is still on the road to hasten its energy transition and this direction will not be reversed. But the country, like any other, will strike a balance between economic development and environmental goals.

China strikes balance between economic development and environmental goals
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