BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top climate envoy on Wednesday said the country could meet its pledge to cap carbon emissions ahead of its target of around 2030, while a senior environmental official said plans for a carbon market were on track despite ministerial restructuring.
Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief negotiator on the Paris climate agreement in late 2015, said China has already met several objectives it promised to fulfill by 2020, including cutting its carbon intensity by 40 percent to 45 percent three years early.
China, the world’s biggest emitter of climate-warming greenhouse gases, has reiterated its commitment to the Paris deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the agreement.
Speaking at a seminar on global climate governance and the Sino-American climate relationship in Beijing, Xie expressed a “personal opinion” that it was “possible” to meet the 2030 target in advance, based on what China had already achieved, and that its actual carbon intensity reduction by 2020 could be greater.
A study by Chinese researchers published in November said China could bring its emissions to a peak by 2023.
Li Gao, head of the climate department at China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), said on the sidelines of the meeting that there would be no delays to the development of the country’s carbon market despite a restructuring of Chinese ministries in March.
The restructuring replaced the Ministry of Environmental Protection with the MEE, and gave it responsibility for all climate matters, including the management and adaptation of carbon emissions trading systems, and for international negotiations.
Climate experts have previously expressed concern that the transfer of responsibilities from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the state planner, to the MEE would disrupt progress on the nationwide carbon market at a crucial time in its development.
They also worry that the MEE lacks the clout of the NDRC to advance the climate agenda.
Both Xie and Li previously worked for the NDRC.
China formally launched the first phase of its nationwide carbon market last December after months of delays. It currently covers only the power sector but will be extended to other emitters at a later stage.
Reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING and David Stanway in SHANGHAI; Writing by Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue