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US News China reflects on its five-year plan against the background of new climate targets

12:55  26 october  2020
12:55  26 october  2020 Source:   france24.com

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CHINA-POLICY-CARBON-PLAN: China reflects on its five-year plan against the background of new climate targets

LA CHINE RÉFLÉCHIT À SON PLAN QUINQUENNAL SUR FOND DE NOUVEAUX OBJECTIFS CLIMATIQUES © Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins CHINA THINKS ABOUT ITS FIVE-YEAR PLAN ON BACKGROUND OF NEW CLIMATE TARGETS

SHANGHAI / BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese politicians will reflect on ambitious new measures to tackle climate change from Monday at a plenary session of the Central Committee, the most important body decision-making of the ruling Communist Party, intended to finalize the country's five-year development plan.

This plenum, which is held behind closed doors until Thursday and during which the main economic and social guidelines of China for 2021-2025 are discussed, comes after President Xi Jinping pledged to make the country neutral in terms of carbon emissions by 2060 and as the Chinese economy suffers from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The government departments responsible for drawing up the plan were to finalize a first version by April but Xi Jinping's announcement at the United Nations on China's carbon neutrality obliges them to integrate the new climate objectives.

Prior to September, few expected China to promise more ambitious cuts on its greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming over the next five years. Rather, the official documents signaled Beijing's intention to make energy security and the economy its top priorities.

Many also expected China to embark on a new wave of coal-fired plant construction but policymakers were forced to revise their copy.

CHANGING THE ENERGY MIX

"Right now every level of government is busy working on the 14th Five Year Plan," said Kevin Lo, associate director of the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies in Hong Kong , who studies China's environmental policies.

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China ’s draft economic plan for the next five years contains new targets that will need to be met if the country is to solve its environmental crises. In his address to China ’s National People’s Congress on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang called for “heavy blows” to be struck against air and water pollution that

Five - year plans , a legacy of China ’s command economy, have recently focused on industrial restructuring and maintaining a medium to high rate of growth. State media has reported that China will likely downplay the GDP target in the upcoming plan as it shifts to high-quality growth.

"It is understood that there is no time to waste if China wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060".

According to experts, the country must reduce the share of coal in its energy mix to less than 50% by 2025 against 58% in 2019 and further support technologies such as those dedicated to carbon capture.

China could start by setting an absolute cap on emissions for the first time, said Zou Ji, director of the Energy Foundation China, who helped research the five-year plan.

In comments posted on social media, Li Tianxiao, who works at the Development Research Center, a think tank that advises the government, said China would need to double its wind and solar power capacities. by 2025.

"The most difficult part of this change is not the investment or the scale of the additions of renewable capacities, but the social transition which accompanies it", observes for his part Prakash Sharma, analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

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STRENGTHENING DOMESTIC DEMAND

In addition to climate commitments, the plenum must also discuss a five-year economic growth target as China abandoned its forecast for this year for the first time since 2002 amid the uncertainties caused by the new coronavirus.

China, where the COVID-19 outbreak first appeared last December, has experienced a strong economic recovery after curbing the spread of the virus in its territory, but the global outlook remains bleak and the pandemic has worsened tensions with the United States.

Political sources told Reuters that Chinese leaders are ready to endorse a lower growth target compared to that of the previous 2016-2020 plan aimed at average annual growth of over 6.5%.

Economists and think tanks have proposed a target for annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of around 5% on average, within a range of 5% to 5.5% and 5% to 6%, depending on the sources.

The country's economic strategy should prioritize strengthening domestic demand. Several government advisers have advocated for reforms to ease restrictions on residence and land ownership rights and increase household incomes.

Measures are also expected on the liberalization of the capital market in order to boost credit for private sector companies.

The new five-year plan is expected to be unveiled at the annual Parliament meeting in early 2021.

(Muyu Xu, David Stanway and Kevin Yao, with Brenda Goh and David Stanway; Blandine Hénault for the French version)

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