China energy expert: Smog pushed China to cut carbon emissions

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Caixin Media, Katowice, Poland

China’s notorious smog has helped make the case for an energy transformation from coal to natural gas and renewables, according to Li Junfeng, who heads China National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, and the Renewable Energy Research Professional Committee of China Energy Research Council. He was speaking to Caixin on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland this week.

“Since the 1970s, coal has accounted for more than 70 per cent of China’s energy consumption. We have always said we want to change the structure but have never succeeded in doning so,” he told Caixin. “Finally, because of the smog in 2013, air pollution made everyone determined to improve the energy structure and reduce coal consumption, and that was when we started to see results.”

In 2014, the State Council announced the Energy Development Strategic Action Plan (2014-2020), which proposed to reduce coal to 62 per cent of China’s energy consumption by 2020. It has already to 60 per cent in 2017, and China’s latest goal is to reduce it further to 58 per cent by 2020.

According to Li, China's coal reduction efforts have been effective because they were linked to air pollution prevention efforts.

“There are a lot of differences in opinions over climate change and people are still resistant to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but when it comes to reducing air pollutants and improving the quality of the atmosphere, everyone agrees. So we take advantage of the synergy -- reducing local environmental pollution and at the same time encouraging the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, in this way the resistance (to carbon dioxide emissions) becomes much smaller,” Li said. 

According to Li Junfeng, China's energy policy expert, China's Belt and Road Initiative is merely fulfiling the energy demand that developing countries' urgently needs. Photo provided by Li Junfeng

Li said that as China’s energy demands continue to grow, developing cleaner energy -- renewable energy, nuclear power and natural gas -- is necessary for meeting the emission reduction targets. At the same time as China invests heavily in natural gas and renewable energy, nuclear energy has become increasingly expensive. “There is a lot of discussion around the safety of nuclear power, but in fact the biggest problem is economic. All the nuclear power plants in the world, including those in the United States, have become not economical,” he said.

On the other hand, renewable energy and natural gas are getting cheaper. Many oil companies, including PetroChina and Sinopec, are now adjusting their strategies to focus on natural gas — transforming from pure petroleum companies to companies that provide "integrated energy services".

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been a source of controversy, with critics accusing China of transfering high-emission industries to Belt and Road countries, while retaining the low-emission ones at home. Li claimed China is merely fulfilling the urgent energy demands of these countries, and said that when transferring energy industries to them, China chooses the cleanest energies with the lowest emissions.

“We have required all our cooperations to be in line and compatible with the respective countries' national emission reduction efforts. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is providing an opportunity for these countries to develop,” Li said.

“It is impossible to demand a developing country that is lagging behind China to reduce their coal consumption. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is also a developmental issue, ” he said.

Like many Chinese policy experts, Li saw development as a panacea for all problems. “Of course, during the development process, countries must go as far as possible to adopt advanced technology,” he added. "So in implementing the Belt and Road, the choices of (energy) tecnologies are made by the people from the Belt and Road countries, they are not imposed by outsiders."

This story was reported with support from the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews' Earth Journalism Net work and the Stanley Foundation.

 

李俊峰:是大气污染让中国下决心改善能源结构

【财新网】(特派波兰卡托维兹记者 周辰 实习记者 万思成)

“虽然整体水平仍落后于一些发达国家,但中国在能源转型方面的努力是可以看到的,且近年来已取得了不菲的成就。”中国国家应对气候变化战略研究和国际合作中心首任主任、中国能源研究会可再生能源专业委员会主任委员李俊峰在波兰卡托维兹气候大会期间对财新记者表示。他认为,中国将应对气候变化和能源转型与治理大气污染三者巧妙地结合起来,取得了一种“协同效应”,起到了事半功倍的效果。

“原来调整能源结构对我们来说是不可能的事情,自1970年代中国的煤炭就占比70%多,一直说要调结构,却一直没有调过来,最后因为2013年那次雾霾,是大气污染让大家下决心改善能源结构,减少煤炭消费,才取得这么一个好的效果。”李俊峰介绍,中国和其他国家有很大的不同,中国是一个以煤为主的能源结构,每一吨标准煤的碳排放量大概是欧洲的1.8到1.9倍,美国的约1.7倍。在这样的背景下,国家需要优化能源结构,推动能源转型。

他介绍说,2013年,我国能源中煤炭占比达70%,次年国务院公布《能源发展战略行动计划(2014—2020年)》,提出到2020年将煤炭占比降至62%。而实际上,2017年该比值已经降至60%。目前我国的新目标是在2020年将其降至58%。

“从气候变化本身来说,还有很多的争议,大家对减排二氧化碳还是有抵触的,但是一说减排污染物、改善大气质量的时候,大家都没有抵触,一致起来了。所以我们就通过这种协同效应,减排当地的环境污染,同时推动二氧化碳的减少,这个阻力就变得小很多。”李俊峰认为,之所以煤炭降比效果好,与国家将煤炭降比与大气污染防治结合起来不无关系,提出煤改气、煤改电等措施,大幅抑制了煤炭消费,这一点十分关键。

“中国需提高可再生能源的发展速度,避免新能源与技术受制于人。”李俊峰称,在过去的十几年里,中国在可再生能源发展方面已经有了“比较令人满意的答卷”,已经“站在世界的前几名”,发展可再生能源也是中国一个“很重要的战略选择”。他称,“核能可能在技术上要受制于人,天然气可能在资源上受制于人,而可再生能源我们在技术上和资源上都可以依靠自己。所以中国要做能源独立的时候,就做可再生能源,同时还是低碳的、清洁的。”

李俊峰表示,目前我国能源需求还在增长,而面对减排目标,清洁能源的发展成为一种必然,而清洁能源主要由可再生能源、核电和天然气构成。相对而言,中国对天然气和可再生能源的投入较多,而核电“越来越贵”的困境仍待解决。“好多舆论在讨论核电的安全性问题,但其实现在最大的问题是经济性问题。现在包括美国在内,全球建的核电站都不经济了。”另一方面,可再生电和天然气越来越便宜,包括中石油、中石化在内的许多公司都在调整战略布局,关注天然气,从纯油公司向“综合能源服务公司”转型。

目前国际上存在的一些争议,称中国将部分高碳产业转移至一带一路国家,在本国内保留低碳产业。对中国在越南、印度、印尼等国投资建设燃煤电厂,李俊峰表示,这正切合这些国家对电力的迫切需要。且中国在转让能源时,也会选择最清洁的、经过超低排放处理的能源。

“我们说的所有合作行动,必须符合他们本国的减排努力,和本国的减排努力相适应,而中国的一带一路布局,则是为这些国家带来发展的契机。”李俊峰认为,“不能要求一个比中国更落后的发展中国家现在就开始减少煤炭消费,这是做不到的。气候变化是个环境问题,但它也是个发展问题。”以印度为例,中国目前的人均用电量约为5000度,比德国的人均5500度仅低10%左右,但印度的人均用电量仅为中国的约六分之一。

“同时你也不能把这些技术发展本身归罪于装备的输出。如果这样,中国过去的这么多燃煤电厂,大部分的技术来自于通用、西门子、东芝,是不是也要跟他们算这笔账?我们不能这么说,因为当时我们需要煤发电,而现在我们开始考虑减少煤炭发电了。”李俊峰说。

李俊峰认为,发展是解决一切问题的灵丹妙药。“当然在发展的过程中间,尽可能采取先进的技术。印度也注意到这一点了。印度现在发展煤电的同时,也在大量发展光伏发电,这些光伏发电的技术也来自于中国。所以我们在(执行)一带一路时,这些技术选择是一带一路国家人民的选择,而不是外来人强加给他们的。”

针对近期中美经贸关系发生摩擦,李俊峰表示:“两个大国在发展过程中难免都会有摩擦,(而且)不断的会有。但是大家吵归吵,都不会让它失控,在这一点上两国领导人是有共识的。”

李俊峰说,美国虽然退出了《巴黎协定》,但并未退出气候变化框架公约,实质上仍参与谈判。“美国的意图是希望发展中国家做更多事情,它实际上现在已经模糊了发达国家和发展中国家这个概念了,基本上要排放大国做更多的事情,包括中国和印度。”

“对中国而言,美国的退出更像是一个倒逼机制。”李俊峰称,目前中国的能源结构落后于时代,需要做出改变。“没有这个倒逼机制,我们自己要做;有了这个倒逼机制,我们可以做得更快一些。所以说在这点上,它并不改变我们很多东西。”

本报道得到“2018年气候变化媒体伙伴”项目的支持。此项目由Internews 地球新闻网络(Earth Journalism Network)与Stanley基金会联合主办。