Skip to content

China’s Climate Pledge

July 9, 2015

By Paul Homewood




Guardian readers are no doubt wetting themselves over news that China has now officially submitted its climate plan to the UN:


China will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 60-65% from 2005 levels under a plan submitted to the United Nations ahead of crucial climate change talks in Paris later this year.

The pledge has been eagerly awaited as the country is the world’s largest carbon emitter.

China said it would increase the share of non-fossil fuels as part of its primary energy consumption to about 20% by 2030, and peak emissions by around the same point, though it would “work hard” to do so earlier.

The figures are contained in a document submitted to the United Nations ahead of the next round of UN climate talks in Paris. All countries are expected to submit their national pledges to reduce carbon emissions beyond 2020, also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).


The pledge consists of three parts:



1) CO2 emissions to peak by 2030

This is something, of course, that we already knew. The real question is what level will they peak at?

We need to remember that, as even the BBC were forced to admit last year, CO2 emissions per capita in China surpassed the EU’s in 2013. In that year, China emitted 7.33 tonnes per capita, compared to 7.19 tonnes in the UK.

[Based on CDIAC emissions of 9977 and 461 million tonnes respectively, and populations of 1360.7 and 64.1 million]

The Guardian, for some reason, thinks this means that the UK is not doing anywhere near enough, while the Chinese are super heroes!



2) Increase non-fossil fuels to 20% by 2030

Note that this is as a proportion of total primary energy consumption, and not just electricity.

According to the recent BP Review, in 2014 China’s primary energy consumption was :


  Mtoe %
Oil 520.3 17
Gas 166.9 6
Coal 1962.4 66
Nuclear 28.6 1
Hydro 240.8 8
Renewables 53.1 2
TOTAL 2972.1


Non fossil fuels, which of course include nuclear, therefore amounted to 11%. In contrast, the contribution of non fossil in the UK is already 15%, and EU targets mean that this figure will be above 20% even by 2020.

Much of China’s targeted increase will be met from Hydro and Nuclear. According to the Pledge Document, capacity of wind power will increase from 96 GW to 200 GW by 2020, and solar from 28 GW to 100 GW. Even at the higher levels, the contribution from wind and solar will still be minimal in the overall mix, maybe about 3%.


It is also worth noting that, according to the Guardian, China plans to cap coal consumption by 2020 at 4.2 billion tonnes. This is all well and good, except for the fact that in 2012 it was only 3.5 billion tonnes.

Add in the promise in the pledge that the use of natural gas will be expanded to more than 10% of the energy mix by 2020, effectively doubling consumption, it is clear that CO2 emissions will continue to rise for some time yet.



3) Cutting GHG emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 levels.

As the Pledge Document admits, CO2 emissions per unit of GDP are already 34% below 2005 levels. Most of this has been achieved not by building windmills, but because much of the economic expansion has been in low energy consuming sectors.

This is a process which will only accelerate in coming years.






It is clear that Chinese emissions will continue to rise in the next decade or so, probably significantly from already high levels.

The sting in the tail of course is money, as Page 18 of the Pledge Document makes clear:




$100 billion a year, and increasing! As a “developing country”, China no doubt expect to receive a large wodge of this, despite the fact that they are already a heavily industrialised country.

Put another way, if we would like to give then bucket loads of cash, they will build a few wind mills and solar panels, and pocket the rest.

If climate change really was a threat, the weak Obama and his cronies in the EU would insist on immediate cutbacks, or at the very least a freeze, in China’s emissions. Instead, they are so desperate to come home with a piece of paper to wave that they will sign up to anything.





The full Pledge Document is here. (It’s OK – you don’t have to speak Mandarin or Satsuma, just scroll down for English!)

  1. Mark Leskovar permalink
    July 9, 2015 5:35 pm

    Another non plan until 2030 that will be spun into an environmental win. It should be interesting how money will be transferred to the second largest economy in the world to build “renewable” energy infrastructure as they openly plan to overwhelmingly favor nuclear and hydro power…..definitely not acceptable to the environmentalists. They are gaming the system and making fools of everyone.

    • July 9, 2015 7:58 pm

      The only fools are the ones that give China money to do anything. China’s pollution problem is not CO2, it is soot from the way they burn coal. Their goal should be modern combustion techniques and putting scrubbers on their power stations. A tougher problem is the multitude of small users of coal for heat and cooking like residential. It is much harder to clean up these sources – they most likely will have to eventually switch to electric power which means a great expansion of nuclear generation. No matter what, China must expand industrial output to support a modernizing society, so reducing power production is not an option because that would spark social unrest that could end very badly.

  2. Graeme No.3 permalink
    July 9, 2015 9:32 pm

    @ Mark Leskovar:
    “They are ….. making fools of everyone”. No need, there were plenty of fools available. Try the Guardian press room or the BBC if you need one or more. Unfortunately they are rather expensive now, but if you can wait until early December there should be a surplus supply in Paris.

  3. manicbeancounter permalink
    July 9, 2015 9:47 pm

    Let us combine the first and third pledges into an emissions forecast.
    1. Emissions growth with halt by 2030. Let us assume emissions grow by just 4% a year from now until 2020 and then a linear descent decline in the growth rate to zero in 2030.
    2. That GHG emissions per unit of GDP by will be reduced 60-65% from 2005 levels.To do this we assume a growth rate of just 7% p.a. through to 2030. It is a lot lower than to 9-10% achieved in the last decade, but still rapid. The difference between the GDP and emissions growth rates gives as decline in CO2 emissions per unit of GDP of 60.5%. Other GHG emissions such as Nitrous Oxide could actually fall as China’s service sector enlarges.

    Under my scenario the pledge would be met at far as CO2 emissions are concerned, whilst still being 2.7 times higher in 2030 than in 2005. If that came about then in 2030 China’s CO2 emissions (using CDIAC figures) would be equivalent to 70% of GLOBAL emissions in 1990. I remember the 2006 Stern review saying constraining global emissions to 1990 levels was just an initial target for preventing dangerous global warming.

    China has long managed to reduce emissions as a proportion of GDP. As the World Bank figures show, CO2 emissions be unit of GDP. From 1977 to 2005 the reduction was 67%, whilst emissions grew by 440%.

  4. 2rja permalink
    July 9, 2015 11:02 pm

    We need Trump doing the negotiating, not some limp wristed panty waist pencil necked geek

  5. Olaf Koenders permalink
    July 10, 2015 2:32 am

    Over the last 500 million years, Carbon (C) has been sequestered by many natural processes creating a shortage in some areas. We need to dig up as much of it as possible and redistribute it as widely as possible. That should enrich the biosphere again.

  6. AndyG55 permalink
    July 10, 2015 5:33 am

    A big THANK YOU to China, and India for continuing to provide CO2 for the world’s plants.

    Your children, your grandchildren and your many-times great grandchildren will all need food..

    … and the primary source of ALL food on this planet is photosynthesis, hence CO2 !

  7. Gus permalink
    July 12, 2015 3:14 pm

    Not. One. Cent

  8. July 12, 2015 3:27 pm

    The US is in debt to China, in part due to our subsidization of green energy. And now they want us to give them money? What a crock!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: