China rolls out policies to promote green consumption in sectors ranging from food and clothing to transport and renewable energy

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China will implement reforms to promote low-carbon consumption spanning a range of sectors to balance economic growth and its goal to become carbon neutral, according to its latest policy.

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The policy, published jointly on Friday by seven government agencies including the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ministry of Commerce, seeks to promote “green consumption”.

It calls for expanding the supply and consumption of green and low-carbon products and promoting the green transformation of the country’s consumption structure, to support the dual-carbon goals of peak carbon emissions in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060. It laid out requirements in various sectors, such as food and clothing, residential, transport, tourism and renewable energy usage.

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“In recent years, China has made positive progress in promoting green consumption, but its demand still needs further stimulation to be fully realised,” the regulators wrote in the plan. “Waste and unreasonable consumption still exists in some areas … and the supporting role of green consumption to higher-quality economic development needs to be further improved.”

In food consumption, restaurants and delivery platforms have been told to curb food waste and promote responsible consumer behaviour. It seeks to accelerate recycling of clothing materials and promote usage of low-carbon textiles in manufacturing. For the housing sector, the plan encourages the use of low-carbon building materials, promotes recycling of building materials, and seeks to upgrade and renovate old communities to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.

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The plan also encourages the use of new energy vehicles (NEVs) and gradual removal of restrictions on their purchase. It calls for speeding up the construction of NEV charging stations, energy storage, hydrogen refilling stations and other relevant infrastructure.

Shopping malls and e-commerce platforms should also shoulder the responsibility to promote the consumption of green products by setting up sales areas of low-carbon products, according to the plan.

The policy urged local governments to streamline the distribution of green power distribution to guide users to consume more green power. Local governments have also been asked to promote smart photovoltaic systems in residential buildings to increase the proportion of green energy in power consumption.

China’s economic growth has long been tied to its energy consumption. Industrial consumption accounted for almost 70 per cent of China’s total power usage in the first half of 2021, according to the National Energy Administration. As the world’s largest carbon emitter, China relies heavily on coal to generate electricity.

“China’s economic growth requires a substantial increase in consumption, which will lead to a substantial increase in energy consumption,” said Lin Boqiang, dean of Xiamen University’s China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy.

Renewable energy accounted for around 40 per cent of China’s total installed power generation capacity in 2021, but despite the increase in green energy capacity, it is not enough to meet the incremental growth in power demand driven by the consumption growth, so it will continue to rely on coal, according to Lin.

China passed a law last year to prevent food waste, including fines on restaurant patrons for wasting food. The State Council also ordered that by 2025, green vehicles should account for 20 per cent of all cars in China, although environmental groups said the quotas should be set higher to meet the nation’s carbon neutral goals.

Beijing also introduced a new five-year plan in December, ordering the country’s carbon-intensive raw material sectors such as steel, aluminium and cement to make green and digital upgrades.

“It’s impossible to suppress consumption for the sake of curbing carbon emissions, so encouraging low-carbon and green consumption to conserve energy and curb waste is key,” said Lin.

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