China has sent a strong signal that it will ramp up efforts to curb carbon emissions with a vow to include climate impact in the nation's environmental impact assessment.
With the help of the assessment, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will encourage different regions, industries and enterprises to reduce coal consumption and better manage greenhouse gas emissions, according to a ministry guideline released on Wednesday.
Climate impact will be part of the assessment for both development planning and specific projects, it said.
Apart from predicting environmental impact at an early stage in project planning and design, the assessment aims to find ways to reduce potential adverse affects.
In November, the ministry issued a notification on enhancing environmental impact assessments for coal mining projects. The document made it compulsory for coal mines that are sources of significant amounts of methane－a greenhouse gas that is estimated to be 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time scale－to collect the gas for utilization.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an NGO, said that as a key part of the decision-making process for projects, as well as of the steps the government takes in the examination and approval of such projects, the assessment could potentially help avoid some high-carbon-emitting projects from being carried out.
The measure is also for the sake of investors. If high-carbon-emitting projects are approved without consideration of their impact on the climate, their operations may be subject to restrictions because of the country's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, resulting in investment losses.
The ministry also said it will incorporate climate impact into its "three lines, one list" approach in environmental governance, which features differentiated management for areas with varied environmental conditions.
The approach sets red lines for environmental protection that cannot be crossed, minimum environmental quality baselines and upper resource usage limits for different areas. It also blacklists prohibited environmentally damaging activities.
These measures are made to facilitate synergy in climate change management and environmental protection by "making full and good use of the advantages of current policy instruments, measures and basic abilities in environmental protection", according to a media release from the ministry's general affairs department.
Responding to climate change used to be a duty of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner. It was transferred to the ministry in the latest institutional restructuring initiated by the State Council, China's Cabinet, in March 2018. The reshuffle has created conditions for synergistic efforts, the release said.
Under the country's goal of peaking carbon emissions before 2030 and realizing carbon neutrality－net zero carbon emissions－before 2060, the ministry will align its efforts to tackle global warming and environmental protection, and it "will endeavor to address factors that no longer suit the new situation and tasks," the ministry said.
In an interview with Xinhua News Agency early this month, Ecology and Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said China will strictly restrict high-emission-producing projects as well as those that consume large amounts of energy as it strives to build a clean and low-carbon energy system in the coming five years.
According to the guideline, the ministry will also accelerate climate legislation. In addition to law and regulation on climate change, it will strive to include the issue in other laws, including those related to environmental protection and energy and resources utilization.
It also said the ministry will enhance the accountability system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make emission reduction a key factor in environmental performance appraisals.
The ministry will summon leading officials of areas that fail to meet their emission control targets.
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