China’s path to a greener economy needs to be underpinned by a stable supply of energy, Premier Li Keqiang said in a release on Monday following a meeting of the National Energy Commission last week. Before establishing a timetable for peaking carbon emissions by the end of the decade, the country needs to conduct an in-depth assessment of how it has handled the recent power crunch, he said.
The comments, just weeks before crucial climate negotiations open in Glasgow, Scotland, could be contentious given the need to accelerate efforts to mitigate global warming. Without additional commitments from China — which the U.S. and U.K. have long been calling for — the conference known as COP26 is unlikely to be a success.
There had been an expectation among some of those helping to draft the plan for China’s energy transition that the 2030 road map could be publicly released before the week-long National Day holidays that began Oct. 1, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
In a statement that highlighted the need to continue building up the nation’s capacity in fossil fuels, from coal to oil and shale gas, Li said that China needs to prioritize its economic development, which “holds the key to solving all its problems.”
“Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built, and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced,” he said. That means the twin goals of peak emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 should be achieved in a “sound and well-paced” manner that will require “long and hard” effort, according to Li.
In a separate speech on Tuesday, China’s President Xi Jinping said the country still intends to set out more precise details on how it will peak carbon emissions in key areas, without giving a timetable for the release.
Xi said last month that China plans to stop building new coal-fired power plants in other nations, though the U.S. and others are continuing to urge China to move faster to reduce its own reliance on the fossil fuel.
Underscoring the urgency of the situation in China, thermal coal futures surged to a record for a second day on Tuesday as another key mining region suffered flooding, complicating efforts to boost supply and halt the escalating energy crisis.
Premier Li also called for an end to the “indiscriminate approach” taken by some Chinese regions to limiting electricity supplies and coal output, as well as “campaign-style” efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Instead, the government will work to “keep homes in the north warm and safe this winter, and ensure the stability of industrial and supply chains and sustained, steady economic development,” according to the statement.