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Moving Ahead On The Energy Front

SOURCES:China Daily  DATE:2016-08-05 CLICKS:

  President's goal of a green and beautiful nation appears to be ahead of schedule

  Lucid waters and lush mountains are China's goals, President Xi Jinping has said. Since he took office, the nation has taken every possible measure to make environmental protection one of the government's principal guidelines as it deals with ecological problems and economic restructuring.

  More than 20 years ago, in nearly every development program, China set the goal of transforming its development patterns, which were heavily reliant on energy, especially fossil fuels consumption. China's economy grew at a double-digit rate for some time and the economic growth caused heavy environmental damage.

  In addition, China has not yet fulfilled its objectives of changing its development pattern.

  However, preliminary figures indicate that Xi's team is on track to deliver on its promise. For instance, China's coal consumption decreased year-on-year by 2.9 percent and 3.6 percent in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Even though the consumption figure for the first half of this year is not yet available, coal production is believed to have dropped 9.7 percent year-on-year from January to June.

  For decades, coal accounted for about three-fourths of China's total energy consumption, but that ratio fell to a historic low of 64.4 percent last year. Qi Ye, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, and Nicholas Stern, president of the British Academy, published a paper on the subject on Nature Geoscience website. Former energy chief Zhang Guobao has, based on data, also said the country's coal peak year, by and large, was 2013.

  Basically, these achievements have been accomplished in the macroeconomic framework of the new normal and supply-side reform, which are focused on reducing industrial overcapacity. But they have also improved the quality of the economy by increasing the output from almost all inputs, such as energy, capital, human, and other resources.

  To achieve this, China adopted what may be termed a strategy of killing two birds with one stone.

  China has not announced a legally binding ceiling for coal consumption on a countrywide basis, but nearly all provincial capitals and municipalities, most of which suffer from heavy air pollution, have set their goals for coal use. For example, Beijing's coal consumption will be no more than 10 percent of its total energy mix next year. Shanghai has banned all households and small-scale boilers from using coal. And some areas of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, have been prohibited from burning coal altogether.

  Sichuan has already announced a ceiling on coal consumption. Even Shanxi, China's largest coal-producing province, has started building large-scale wind farms and setting up solar plants to gradually replace coal use.

  The phase-out of coal and the consumption ceiling policy are similar to what happened across Europe when countries realized the importance of protecting the environment. As such, the bottom-up approach of China in curbing coal use has positive implications, even though the coal industry faces the pressure of low prices and rising layoffs.

  The policies adopted by China will help reduce industrial overcapacity, especially in the steel industry. In some cities, blue-sky days have increased dramatically since the clean-air campaign was launched. That is the kind of environment people long for, and deserve.

  Such an environmental welfare approach can help reduce healthcare bills for families and the government. From a policy point of view, these practices may help the government put a ceiling on total energy consumption. And if that happens, it would be a huge step forward in fulfilling China's commitment to reducing energy consumption.

  Another revolutionary step would be to revise the peak year for China's carbon emissions, which was previously set by the government at around 2030.

  It seems Xi's goal of developing a green and beautiful nation is on the way to be achieved ahead of schedule.

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