China promises to slash power sector emissions 60% by 2020

China has pledged to reduce emissions from the power sector’s key pollutants by 60% by 2020, the government announced on Wednesday, as world leaders meet this week in Paris to address global climate change.

The economic superpower will also reduce yearly carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations by 180m tonnes within the next 14 years, the official People’s Daily website reported. Currently, no elaboration or detailed schedule has been provided on how the country will achieve this turnaround.

However, it’s clear some action needs to be taken, especially from the viewpoint of China’s capital Beijing, which earlier this week suffered a wave of choking smog. City authorities issued an ‘orange’ alert—the second-highest level, prompting a wave of road closures, halted construction work and warnings being sent out to residents urging them to remain inside.

The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said the pollution was reportedly caused by ‘unfavourable’ weather. Emissions in northern China rise significantly over the winter months as city-wide heating systems are switched on; the resulting polluted air proving hard to disperse by the region’s low wind speeds.

The thick smog, which finally cleared on Wednesday, highlights the country’s desperate need to combat its pollution caused by the coal-fired power industry. Reducing fossil fuel use in favour of greener alternatives is likely to assume a pivotal role in China’s promises to bring its greenhouse gas emissions under control by 2030.

China’s delegate at the Paris talks, Su Wei, ‘noted with concern’ what he called a failure of the rich to commit to helping developing nations with new finance initiatives to tackle global warming.