The recent news about the air quality in Beijing reaching apocalyptic levels has triggered a huge brouhaha from climate scientists and concerned citizens from across the world. But all doesn’t seem lost.
In January this year, China’s government announced a bold move to ease traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions: the authorities want 60% of all motor-vehicle use in towns and cities to be public transportation, and the government in Beijing us urging regional governance to use more zero-emission and alternative-energy vehicles.
China continues to be the top market for gas-powered vehicles; an estimated 18 million new cars was purchased by Chinese consumers in 2012! Beijing, alone, has 5.18 million cars, up from 3.13 million as recently as 2008. And the government is planning to take 180,000 of the worst polluters off the road as well as have the largest number of clean cars.
In April, 2012 the State Council, China’s highest administrative authority, wants to produce 500,000 new-energy vehicles including Electric Vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles by 2015, and is aiming for a production capacity of 2 million EVs by 2020. Ultimately, China wants a total of 5 million EVs on the country’s roads, powered by an estimated 10,000 charging stations, by 2020.
In 2011, the Chinese government earmarked $ 1.5 billion annually for the industry for the next 10 years, hoping to transform the country into one of the leading producers of zero-emission vehicles.
China has no choice but to move toward zero-emission cars. The country relies on coal for about 70% of its energy needs. In 2011, China’s energy consumption climbed 9.7%, reaching 3.7 billion metric tonnes of standard coal equivalent. It is not only the world’s largest consumer of coal, but also is second only to the US in oil imports – more than 5 million barrels of oil per day in 2011, making it the world’s largest source of carbon emissions.
As a result, the Chinese government is taking bold steps to move beyond fossil fuels. In August, China committed about $ 290 billion to clean-energy projects. The authorities want renewable energy to account for one-fifth of its total energy demand by 2015. China can now generate 6.2 GW of solar power and 68.3 GW of wind power – the equivalent of 50 coal fired plants.
The State Council estimates that achieving the targets for EVs will lower China’s greenhouse gas emissions by 19% while reducing the country’s reliance on imported oil.