China, the world's biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, will set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions from 2016, a top government adviser said on Tuesday.
The target will be written into China's next five-year plan, which comes into force in 2016, He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing.
There had been local media speculation last year that the country would introduce absolute caps, considered more stringent than its current system of pegging CO2 emissions, which have soared 50 percent since 2005, to the size of the economy.
"The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap," He said.
The statement comes the day after the United States, the world's second-biggest emitter, for the first time announced plans to rein in carbon emissions from its power sector, a move the Obama administration hopes can inject ambition into slow-moving international climate negotiations.
Climate negotiators from over 190 nations are currently flying in to Bonn, Germany to start a new 10-day round of climate talks.
China, often blamed by rich countries for holding back progress in U.N. talks on emissions due to its reluctance to take on a binding target, is stepping up efforts to clean up or shut down carbon-emitting sources such as coal-fired power plants, factories and vehicles, because they have also created a much-publicised pollution crisis that ends hundreds of thousands lives prematurely every year.
Despite the absolute cap on CO2, He said China's greenhouse gas emissions would only peak in 2030, at around 11 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent. Its emissions currently stand at around 7-9.5 billion tonnes.
But the adviser said that would depend on China achieving a real reduction in coal consumption from sometime around 2020 or 2025, and on the nation meeting its target of having 150-200 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2030.
The share of non-fossil fuels in China's energy mix would reach 20 to 25 percent in 2030, He said.
Meanwhile, Sun Cuihua, a high-level climate change official at the National development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told the conference China was planning to introduce its national emissions trading scheme in 2016 or 2017, but that it would only be fully functional in 2020.
Over the past year China has launched pilot carbon markets in six cities and provinces to gain experience in using emissions trading to cut pollution.