China's climate pledge to the United Nations this week has been heralded as proof of the country's new commitment to the environment, but some experts believe the government is under-promising.
Beijing said it would slash the carbon intensity of gross domestic product (GDP), i.e. the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per dollar of GDP, by 60-65 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. That amounts to a 2 percent annual decline from now to 2030, HSBC estimates. Previously, the country was targeting a 40-45 percent cut by 2020.
The world's second-largest economy also repeated its intention to peak emissions around 2030 or earlier, and to increase the share of non-fossil fuel in the primary energy mix to 20 percent by 2030, promises the country first made last November.
While Beijing's pledge is a positive sign, it must be seen as only the starting point for much more ambitious action, according to Greenpeace China.
"It does not fully reflect the significant energy transition that is already taking place in China. Given the dramatic fall in coal consumption, robust renewable energy uptake, and the urgent need to address air pollution, we believe the country can go well beyond what it has proposed today," noted climate analyst Li Shuo.
Former Shell chairman Ronald Oxburgh echoed that view. "China tends to be conservative on targets like this, so it seems likely that Chinese emissions will peak before 2030," he said in a statement.