China is on track to meet its target of lowering energy intensity by 20 per cent before the end of the year despite severe setbacks caused by the financial crisis, said its top climate official on Wednesday.
China's energy intensity, or energy consumption per unit of GDP, fell by 14.38 per cent between 2006 and 2010, said Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
This followed a four-year programme of replacing energy-inefficient small power plants with more efficient ones, he said. The government closed down inefficient thermal units with a net capacity of 60 gigawatts, as well as outdated iron, steel and cement production plants with capacities of 82, 60 and 214 million tonnes respectively, said the NDRC in a report released on Wednesday on the sidelines of the annual convening of China's legislature.
But Mr. Xie said the government's $586-billion stimulus spending on infrastructure projects, many of which involve high energy consumption, had severely set back its energy conservation drive.
“There is still a considerable gap between what we want to achieve and what we have achieved,” he said.
“Heavy energy-consuming and heavy emission industries have been growing rapidly,” said the NDRC report. “The decline of energy intensity has slowed down for the first time.”
The fact that China still managed to cut its energy intensity by 14.38 per cent suggested it was on track to meet its 20 per cent target by the end of the year, said Yang Ailun, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace China.
But the government still needed to do more to move away from coal, the biggest cause of pollution here, said Ms. Yang. China still derives about 70 per cent of its energy from coal.
“2010 is a crucial year because the government will draw up its twelfth five-year plan [running from 2011 to 2015], which decides whether or not China could achieve a green transition in its development model,” Ms. Yang added.
Among the measures environmentalists here are campaigning for inclusion in the plan is a carbon tax to encourage the development of clean technologies.
China has already announced a target of reducing its carbon intensity, or carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020. This plan envisages raising the contribution of non-fossil energy to 14 per cent of primary energy consumption.