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China meets 2020 carbon target three years ahead of schedule

China reached its 2020 carbon emission target three years ahead of schedule with the help of the country’s carbon trading system according to Xie Zhenhua, China’s representative to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) negotiations.

Xie Zhenhua

Xie Zhenhua, China’s representative to UNFCCC negotiations

The development provides an important boost to the Paris Agreement on Climate Action, which has the central goal to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.

Reacting to the news on Twitter, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, said: “Excellent news coming out of China – very encouraging as the international community seeks to accelerate the transition to low carbon and to raise ambition to achieve the #ParisAgreement #climate goals.”

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Xie Zhenhua, who was formerly vice-chairman of the NDRC and is now a special envoy with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “(This achievement) is not only a great encouragement to me… but also the recognition of our country’s long-term efforts and achievement of coordinating of both domestic and international dimensions, transiting from tackling the challenge of climate change to promoting the historic opportunity to achieve sustainable development and pushing the transition towards green low-carbon development,” said Xie in Hong Kong after receiving the Lui Che Wo prize for his efforts to tackle climate change.

The country’s carbon emissions trading system was introduced in 2011 and includes power generation, iron and steel production and cement manufacturing sectors in seven provinces and municipalities including Shanghai, Xie said.

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At the end of 2017, China had cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 46 percent from the 2005 level, fulfilling its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 45 percent from the 2005 level by 2020.

It is important to note that China’s progress on climate action has not come at the price of economic growth. From 2005 to 2015, China’s economy grew by 1.48 times, and at the same time, the carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP- dropped by 38.6 percent. In 2016, the rate continued to fall by 6.6 percent year on year.

Transactions totalling 200 million tons of carbon emissions quotas had been completed via the platform by the end of 2017.

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Raising ambitions for a low-carbon future even further, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) launched a nationwide carbon emissions trading system in the power generation industry in December 2017.

Under this programme, businesses are assigned emissions quotas, and those producing more than their share of carbon can buy unused quotas on the market from those that emit less.

Xie said the new system is a step toward establishing a national carbon market across all industries, and that the national market, though only at an embryonic stage, already covers about 1,700 power firms with total carbon dioxide emissions in excess of three billion tons, making it the world’s biggest. He noted China would continue to work to expand coverage to other industries.

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