As originally hinted two months ago, Chinese government officials announced last week that the world’s most populous country will double its reliance on renewable energy sources by 2020. Currently China derives about 7 percent of its energy from renewable sources like hydro-electric, solar and wind power, but plans to derive 15 percent of its energy from these so-called alternatives within a decade and a half.
“Strengthening the development and use of renewable energies is a must for us to address the increasingly serious energy and environmental issues,” reported Chinese president Hu Jintao in a prepared statement.
With China’s supply of coal and oil failing to meet rising demand—resulting in frequent blackouts in large urban areas—there couldn’t be a better time to up the ante on renewables. Also, the country’s new commitment bodes well for the development of renewable energy sources around the world. Analysts expect Chinese business interests to be at the forefront of developing still-nascent alternative energy technologies, with the rest of the world as beneficiaries.
Despite the pledge, though, environmentalists worry that the Chinese plan is not ambitious enough to stave off global warming as a result of the on-going emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Currently China is the world’s second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (following the U.S.), and the country’s unprecedented development will remain fueled primarily by coal, one of the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.
Environmentalists are also concerned that large-scale hydropower, which can wipe out big swaths of ecosystems and wildlife, will play a disproportionately large role in China meeting its new commitment on renewables.