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China’s 5-Year Plan on Energy Efficiency

Monday, May 30th, 2011

There is an old Chinese saying that a disaster can be a blessing in disguise.

How about a blessing can be a disaster in disguise? The Chi nese government recently revealed its energy efficiency and greenhouse gases reduction plan as part of the nation’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). However, the country’s remarkable economic growth seems likely to be the biggest hurdle in real izing its environmental goals.

From 2006 to 2010, during the 11th Five-Year Plan, the en ergy consumption reduction per unit of GDP was 19.1 percent. It was 0.9 percentage points short of its 20 percent target set out for that particular five year plan. The 11 percent of striking economic growth rate was blamed in obstructing the Green China plan. The expected economic growth was 7.5 percent during the same period.

Due to the rapid growth of the economy, there has been high energy consumption and a high emission of greenhouse gases. The nation’s per unit GDP energy consumption reduction was only 14.38 percent during 2006 to 2009. It fell only by 2.2 percent in 2009 compared to the annual target 4 percent. Then the government forged ahead to meet the target for the next year, with a planned reduction per unit GDP energy consumption of 4.72 percent in 2010.

On March 5 of this year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao disclosed the draft of the government’s 12th Five-Year Plan. It revealed that the government plans to cut energy consumption per unit of economic growth by 16 percent and to emit less carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic growth by 17 percent respectively. The nation also aims to increase the use of non-fossil fuels from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 11.4 percent to raise the overall use of clean energy. This is part of the nation’s wider plan to reduce carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. The Five-Year Plan also aims to slash emissions of major pollutants by 8 to 10 percent by 2015. The target for the last five years (2006-2010) was 12 to 14 percent. The nonprofit international organization The Climate Group’s greater China program director Wu Changhua said that the concen tration of carbon dioxide should be kept under 450 parts per million, which is a bottom line to save the planet from catastrophic disasters, in an interview with China Daily. While the nation lowered its growth rate target to an annual 7 percent from 11.2 percent during 2006 to 2010, many environmentalists are still worried about the possibility of meeting the goal of the Green China plan.

The environmental non-governmental organization Greenpeace proposed that local governments should not exceed the growth target set by the top leaders during an interview with China Daily after the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March.

NPC deputy Hu Weiwu, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Science, also mentioned that the country’s energy intensity is 1.5 times higher than average in developed nations. Therefore the country should put efforts towards improving its energy efficiency.

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