China Is Apparently on Track to Meet Its Climate Goals

March 4th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Donald Trump nails at least one thing when it comes to China beating the U.S. — but maybe not in the way you (or Trump) might think.

The country is on track to surpass its carbon emissions targets by switching to renewable energy sources, according to officials there and renewable energy statistics released this week.

Because of its heavy coal consumption, the country is one of the globe's top polluters. But figures released by the country's National Bureau of Statistics show that consumption in 2015 was down by 3.7 percent, and imports of carbon had dropped 30 percent — an amount the environmental group Greenpeace East Asia equates to Japan's total annual coal consumption.

At the same time, the country's capacity to support renewable sources of energy soared, with wind capacity up 74 percent from last year, and solar up 34 percent, the figures showed.

China is apparently making moves to change its environmental reputation.

The apparent achievements mark the second year in a row that China has addressed its remarkable pollution by cutting coal use, Mother Jones notes. The figures bolster claims that China will reach "peak" emissions by 2030, after which emissions are supposed to be on a steady downturn.


China's lead negotiator at the United Nations climate summit in December said the country would "far surpass" carbon emission reduction goals that would make its emissions in 2020 40 to 45 percent down from 2005 levels, the South China Morning Post reported.

There are reasons to be skeptical of the statistics. In November, The New York Times reported that the country was underreporting its coal burning by up to 17 percent annually. Still, the figures and anecdotal evidence that the country is taking serious steps to meet emissions goals are encouraging.

The path to meeting emissions goals for the U.S. is less clear. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on President Barack Obama's plan to curb carbon emissions, — mostly from coal-run power plants — which had been a key component to meeting the Paris goals. Still, U.S. climate officials said the court order, which is in effect while the court waits for lower court deliberations, was a small setback.

Solar power

"We anticipate that the Clean Power Plan is going to be upheld," Todd Stern, the Obama administration's top climate envoy, told reporters in London last month. "If for whatever reason it's not, we will have to use other means to get to our target, but we're not backing off our target."

Under the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. plans to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels by 20230.