London, December 2 (ANI): Environment experts have suggested that if China is to achieve its climate target of cutting carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, it should implement "substantial societal reforms".
"If the target is met, it would have significant implications for China and the rest of the world," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency in Paris, told Nature News.
The country reduced its energy intensity - energy consumption per unit of GDP - by 47 percent between 1990 and 2005, and looks likely to cut it by another 20 percent from 2005 levels by the end of next year.
Carbon intensity can drop faster than energy intensity if clean-energy sources are brought into the mix.
According to Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, China has picked low-hanging fruit by closing energy-inefficient factories and power plants.
In China, industry accounts for an unusually large share - 50 percent - of energy consumption.
"The further we go, the more challenging and costly it will get," said Zhenhua.
If China sticks to current policies, it will reduce its carbon intensity by about 30 percent by 2020, according to Zou Ji, an environmental economist at Renmin University in Beijing.
"To get extra mileage and reach the 40-45 percent target, China will have to instigate substantial social and economic reforms across the board," he said.
Indeed, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), a joint Chinese and international advisory board to the state government, recently laid out a road map to a low-carbon economy.
It includes recommendations in such wide-ranging areas as energy pricing, industrial development, technological innovation, tax systems, land use and urban planning.
"The daunting challenge that China faces cannot be underestimated," said Zou.
"The concern is not only whether China is willing to make that step forward, but whether its development state will allow a smooth economic transition," he added.
The new pledge will be included in China's next five-year plan along with policies to help it shift towards a low-carbon economy.
The target puts China on a path for emissions to peak around 2030, according to Knut Alfsen, head of research at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, and an author on the CCICED report.
That peak "will take place at a level where emissions per capita are only half of what we have in the developed world today," said Alfsen. (ANI)