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China's climate policy in the spotlight as country smashes solar records

China's climate policy

China installed more solar PV capacity in 2013 than any other country, ever. Creative Commons: Intel Free Press, 2012

China’s clean energy and clean air efforts are back in the spotlight this month as a host of new announcements have hit the headlines in recent weeks.

The world’s biggest emitter, growing concerns over air quality in China and a greater awareness of the potential impacts on climate change and the economic benefits of investing in clean energy and carbon cutting measures have placed climate firmly on the country’s political agenda.

And while the country’s emissions continued to rise in 2013, their efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy have earned China praise.

Last month UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said it was one of the countries “doing it right”.

New figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show the extent of China’s appetite for renewables – particularly solar.

In 2013, the country installed more solar energy capacity than any country, ever.

Reports suggest that the country installed anywhere from 9.5GW to 11GW of solar PV installations in 2013. This could be as high as 14GW once final numbers are in.

Only five countries have installed 10GW cumulatively to date – and no country has ever installed that much solar PV in a single year.

With BNEF estimates putting the entire global PV market at around 39GW for 2013, China alone accounted for roughly a third of all installed capacity.

And its efforts do not stop at boosting solar capacity. China’s central government also released a plan last month to limit the amount of energy it gets from coal by 65% this year.

The country’s previous plan called for a 65% limit by 2017, and coal accounted for a 65.7% of the country’s energy in 2013.

The plan aims to reduce pollution from coal plants and follows outbreaks of smog across Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, last year – threatening public health and the country’s economy.

The government has also agreed to disclose official data on air pollution, following a request from some of the country’s environmental groups.

Since 1 January, 15,000 factories – including state-run enterprises – have had to publicly report details of their air emissions and water discharges, in real time.

Environmental groups hope that this unprecedented level of disclosure is a sign that things are beginning to change in the country.

In another bid to limit pollution in China’s biggest cities, the country’s Premier has called for a major roll-out of electric vehicles and said the government should use electric cars and buses.

Explosive growth in car use and urban transport has become a major concern in fast-expanding Chinese megacities.

The country has a goal to have 5 million electric vehicles in use by the end of the decade. But with around 18 million new petrol cars sold in China last year, there is still along way to go to meet this target.

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