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China’s Great Leap to Green

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, with carbon emissions that increased by 32.5 per cent between 2006 and 2009.

To address this, Beijing has launched an ambitious program to close factories which do not meet emissions targets, develop its low carbon-economy, and create high-value jobs to power its economy, similar to that observed in the Obama administration. As part of its social security policy, China recognises that intense pollution and several poisoning incidents have led to unrest in many parts of the country.

As such, its 12th five-year plan, just approved by Communist Party leaders, will shortly be ratified by the National People’s Congress. It details China’s plans to reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 based on 2005 levels, and a target to generate 15% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by the same date. To do so without compromising economic growth, China will need to invest heavily in developing energy efficient investments and infrastructure.

China’s energy security policy is keen to reduce dependence on coal, and China has been diversifying into alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar power. In 2009, China’s $220bn green stimulus package helped it to overtake the US to become the world leader in clean energy investments. Under its 2010 $585bn economic stimulus package, $105bn has been allocated for rural and urban water treatment projects, water pollution management, and ecological preservation. The government has also set a 15% reduction target for lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium and arsenic emissions from 2007 levels by 2016. It may even establish a carbon tax by 2013.

In the existing plan, China reported to have met its own targets of reducing energy intensity by 20% and maintaining arable land cover at 1.2mn square kilometres, reduce consumption per unit of industrial value by 25%, reduce chemical oxygen demand by 14%, and reduce carbon emissions by an accumulative 12%.