November 24, 2014

Is China Getting Serious About Cutting Carbon Emissions? Despite Recent Announcements, Skepticism Remains

After announcing a joint climate plan with the U.S. while President Barack Obama was in the country in mid-November, China revealed last week that it plans to set a cap on coal consumption within the next five years. According to The New York Times, “The State Council, China’s cabinet, released details of an energy strategy late Wednesday that includes capping coal consumption at 4.2 billion tons in 2020 and having coal be no more than 62 percent of the primary energy mix by that year.” 

While the announcement is a positive sign, some U.S. analysts are still skeptical about China’s climate commitment. The Times said, “Environmental advocates on Thursday welcomed the State Council’s announcement … But, as with the ‘around 2030’ pledge on peak emissions, they said China could make a greater effort — for example, China could cap coal consumption even earlier or at a lower level.” And though he supports a global climate pact, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer warned the agreement between U.S. and China, “commits China to begin cutting carbon emissions 16 years from now” while the U.S. “must now double its current rate of carbon cutting to meet a new, more restrictive goal by 2025.” 

MSCI continues to believe that the U.S. should not commit to any major carbon action—including a $2 trillion carbon tax introduced in the U.S. Senate last week—until there is an agreement among other global leaders—including those from China and India—to reduce their emissions.