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China sets moderate new energy targets for climate change

BEIJING (AP) – China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, on Friday announced moderate targets for a generally new energy և climate, indicating little sign that it will accelerate its pace in tackling climate change.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang said on a foggy day in Beijing that the country would cut its carbon emissions by 18% per unit of output over the next five years. He addressed the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress of China, the solemn legislature that began on Friday.

The meeting is China’s highest political event this year, with the ruling Communist Party presenting a new policy and legislation.

The target of 18% is the same as in the previous five-year economic plan. The country uses carbon emissions per unit of economic output or carbon intensity instead of absolute emission reduction targets.

“We really wanted to see what the 14th Five-Year Plan would say about how to actually get there, or maybe even more ambitious targets,” said Dimitri de Boer, ClientEarth, chief environmental adviser. “What we have seen about the real plan is that the goal is to reduce carbon intensity by 2025, but we can not say exactly what that means in terms of total emissions.”

In September, President Xi Jinping announced that China aims to ensure carbon neutrality by 2060 and peak emissions by 2030. The announcement of carbon neutrality led many to expect more targets.

Government developers have outlined some of these features in a brief description of the new five-year plan. It aims to make up 20% of total energy consumption by 2025 for non-fossil fuels, which will require further investment in solar energy. It does not mention any ban on new coal projects, which experts say would be a significant step.

China gets 60% of its energy from coal, the world’s largest source of industrial pollution and climate change. As a result, its carbon intensity is higher than any other country.

Climate change experts say the new plan does not include previous government figures such as the 5-year GDP target, which will set clearer limits as carbon intensity is calculated through GDP.

Laurie Milvirta, chief analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research in Helsinki, says the lack of such figures could be good, as it could give the government more flexibility in pursuing green policies.

Many are waiting to see if the government will introduce more detailed regulations on the carbon industry later this year, such as steel and cement.

Although the new target continues at the same pace as the previous five-year plan, experts say it will be harder to achieve given earlier gains.

The country has seen a 18.6% decline in the last five years.

“It has to be more challenging than it has been in the last five years, because the better you do, the higher the marginal value will be,” said Wu Ji Zin, an energy fund China-based charity dedicated to sustainable economic development.

It remains to be seen whether China will choose its own pace.

“At best, this is very gradual progress,” Millivirta said. “It’s more business than usual.”

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Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

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