China has unveiled a new environmental action plan which the government says will seek high-tech solutions to remedy its complex environmental challenges.
The government says current technologies are not mature enough to serve the country’s long-term needs. It wants to use innovations in big data, biotech and artificial intelligence to help tackle pollution, habitat loss and climate change.
It said on Wednesday it will build a “green technology innovation system” over the next three years to tackle air, soil and groundwater pollution, reduce waste and protect ecosystems.
The system will be backed by tax incentives and new “green technology banks”, and China will also encourage enterprises and financial institutions to provide more support to innovative green technologies, the plan said.
The new plan is designed to help the world’s biggest greenhouse gas producer meet its targets to bring emissions to a peak by 2030 and to become “carbon neutral” by 2060. China has cut CO2 emissions per unit of economic growth by a third over the last decade, but overall volumes continue to rise.
‘West Must Help Poor Nations’
The hi-tech plan appeared days before the start of a new round of global climate talks in Egypt. China’s representatives are expected to focus on persuading industrialised countries to provide a long-awaited $100 billion annual fund to help poorer nations adapt to rising temperatures.
The new national plan vows to “deploy science and technology systematically” to resolve a wide range of environmental problems, as well as improve its ability to assess the impact of rising temperatures in vulnerable regions, and monitor new sources of pollution, harmful chemicals and drug-resistant bacteria.
It also reiterated its commitment to carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology to prevent greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
And it promised more research to support large-scale demonstration projects and the use of aquifers and oil-bearing formations to contain sequestered CO2.
The government will also support research into “deep decarbonisation technologies” in a variety of industrial sectors, including steel, cement, thermal power and agriculture, it said.
The plan, published by the Ministry of Science and Technology and other government departments, also called for more international cooperation in the field of climate and environment, including with the United States.
The ‘action plan’ comes at a time when southern China is expected to face another drought, which will reduce hydropower generation and mean more power output is needed from other sources to meet peak winter demand.
“Most parts of China are forecast to have near- or less rainfall this winter than a normal year. But southern China could see drought or even severe drought,” Shen Yanbo, chief scientist of China Meteorological Administration’s public service centre, told a seminar on Thursday hosted by state-backed Chongqing Gas Exchange.
China’s Ministry of Emergency Management also said on Tuesday it expected a drought along the Yangtze basin in November, while central and southern China is at “extremely high risk” of bushfires.
Shen identified other regions that might experience an “extreme severe drought,” including Chongqing and Guangxi, where hydropower is the most significant source of power supply.
Chongqing and neighbouring Sichuan suffered a drought and power shortage in July and August, forcing companies including Taiwan’s Foxconn and battery giant CATL to shut down or curb output.
Weak hydropower in the regions would require other power generators, especially coal-fired power utilities, to boost production to meet peak winter demand, adding to carbon emissions, ultimately increasing the risk of extreme weather.
Shen said climate change had increased the likelihood of weather events such as sleet in southern China that could paralyse grid transmission lines.
He expected most of China to experience near-normal or warmer temperatures this winter, but some northern regions, including Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, may be colder than usual.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard