- China has submitted its updated NDC to the UNFCCC, reiterating its target to achieve over 1.2 TW of wind and solar power capacity by 2030
- It will ‘strictly control’ coal-fire power projects during 14th FYP, and phase it down in 15th FYP, but makes no commitment to exiting coal
- Experts and activists alike see it as reflecting ‘lack of determination’ on part of China and ‘disappointing’
With the COP26 climate summit underway, the Chinese government has pledged to increase its cumulative solar and wind energy installed capacity by 2030 to 1,200 GW or 1.2 TW, as part of its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). It would increase from 414 GW reported for till the end of 2019, comprising 210 GW wind and 204 GW of solar capacity. No individual targets were given for wind and solar.
There is practically nothing new in the updated NDC as the document compiles all the recent targets the country has announced of late. It has committed to the goal of reaching CO2 emissions peak before 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, while increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030 (see China Aims To Hit CO2 Peak Before 2030).
The country cited its status as a developing nation with a population of 1.4 billion facing the ‘arduous’ tasks of economic development, along with climate change. It reiterated its pledge to help developing nations develop green and low-carbon energy, and not build new coal-fired power projects abroad, however at home it sees it ‘unlikely’ for the country’s coal-dominated energy mix in the short term.
“China will strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and strictly limit the increase in coal consumption over the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) period and phase it down in the 15th FYP period,” reads China’s updated NDC.
The response was quick to come in. Greenpeace China’s Policy Advisor Li Shuo was quoted by Reuters as referring to China’s updated NDC as reflecting a lack of determination on China’s part to step up its climate action among major economies of the world.
Third Generation Environmentalism Ltd (E3G) pointed out that these numbers are the same as Chinese President Xi Jinping announced during Climate Action Summit in December 2020 (see China Aims For Over 1,200 GW Wind & Solar Power By 2030). It said the announcements do not give any clue about the future of coal in China and that the updated NDC is a ‘disappointing and a missed opportunity’ as the world’s ‘largest’ polluter has not been able to leverage the massive cost reductions for clean technology’.
“As home to half the world’s coal power plants, China is inescapably in the international spotlight as the rest of the world looks for an explicit statement that China too will move from coal to clean,” said E3G Associate Director Chris Littlecott.
Indeed, the 800 GW wind and solar to be installed in the 11 years from end of 2019 to end of 2030 would mean only 72.7 GW installations per year in average for both technologies. If China is looking at parity for both technologies, this would mean only 36 GW new solar capacity per year. However, last year, China installed 48 GW of solar capacity (see China Installed 48.2 GW of solar Capacity in 2020)
Meanwhile, world leaders are currently assembled in Glasgow, UK for the COP26 where the United Nations is looking forward to raised ambitions. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa warned, “We are on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C, while we should be heading for the 1.5°C goal. Clearly, we are in a climate emergency. Clearly, we need to address it. Clearly, we need to support the most vulnerable to cope. To do so successfully, greater ambition is now critical.”