Premier Li Keqiang and France's President Francois Hollande greet the media at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]
China's commitment to a peak in carbon emissions by 2030, which Premier Li Keqiang declared in Paris on Tuesday, is not just a boon for the UN climate talks in December. It is also of importance to whether the country's economic development can be sustainable or not in the near future.
Given the recent downturn in its economic growth, China will likely face even greater pressure to fulfill the target of increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to about 20 percent while reducing its energy intensity by 60 to 65 percent by 2030 from its 2005 level.
It is natural for a country as big and populous as China to discharge a large amount of carbon emissions when it is in the process of industrialization and urbanization. For developed Western countries, their carbon emissions peaked when their per capita gross domestic product exceeded the $20,000 level. If China's greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2030 or even earlier, its per capita GDP will probably be around $15,000.
And while it is true China is the world's biggest carbon emitter, it is far behind the United States when it comes to historical accumulation. In addition, since China is the world's biggest manufacturer and exports consumer goods to all over the world, it is shouldering more of the carbon-producing sectors for the benefit of others.
However, China has realized that it is already heavily indebted to its environment. And its authorities have realized the urgent need to change to a more sustainable economic development track, resolving to transform the mode of its economic growth from an investment-oriented one to an innovation-dominated one.
That explains why China has shifted its focus from fossil fuels to hydropower, nuclear power, wind power and solar power and other alternative energy sources. It also explains why the country is seeking to eliminate its energy-consuming over-production capacity.
Even to improve people's living environment and soothe their ever-growing dissatisfaction with the heavy pollution that plagues the country, considerably cutting carbon emissions has become something that the leadership must achieve as soon as possible.
Premier Li once likened his reform moves to a "courageous man cutting off his snake-bitten wrist" in order to fight on. So, without doubt, China is serious about realizing its ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions.