China puts $8 trillion price tag on its climate plan

WASHINGTON - It will cost China over US$6.6 trillion (S$8.86 trillion) to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals it will lay out later this month in its strategy for United Nations climate negotiations, the country's lead negotiator for the talks said Tuesday.

Xie Zhenhua, special representative for climate change affairs at China's National Development and Reform Commission, said the objectives China will outline by the end of June will be "quite ambitious".

Xie was participating in a three-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue forum in Washington where he met with counterparts in the Obama administration, including US climate negotiator Todd Stern, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

To meet its objectives, China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, must reconfigure its coal-dependent energy mix and develop new energy sources, Xie said. "We will need to carry out international co-operation and research and development to reduce the costs of relevant technologies and to innovate so that we can reach our objectives," he told reporters at a State Department briefing.

The United States and China announced on Monday they will partner on two new carbon-capture, utilization and storage projects to help commercialize the technology.

While key details of China's plan are not yet known, it is expected to include targets announced in November, when it reached a key climate change deal with Washington to cap its emissions by 2030 and fill 20 per cent of its energy needs from zero-carbon sources.

Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed the government's commitment to hit a carbon emissions peak by"around 2030". The country's coal consumption decreased for the first time in years in 2014, however, leading some to speculate that its emissions could reach their peak sooner.

Stern, the US climate change envoy, told reporters the plans China has already announced with Washington were "a quite strong contribution".

But he said he hopes a final agreement of all countries at this December's key UN climate change conference in Paris contains "a strong set of...contributions, which are updated periodically" to ensure more ambitious targets.

Stern said China does not expect public finance to support its climate goals and that it is likely to attract investment as it adopts new technologies.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang told a panel moderated by former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that 750,000 electric vehicles were sold in China last year, three times more than the year before, "giving great opportunities and profit to companies like Tesla and BYD (Auto) ". "To tackle climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity," Wang said.

Ahead of the UN's climate change conference in Paris, countries are required to submit national plans, which will serve as the building blocks of a final agreement.

So far, 11 countries, including the United States and Mexico, as well as the European Union have submitted theirs.

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