BEIJING (Reuters) - China will reduce emissions of major pollutants in the power sector by 60 percent by 2020, the cabinet announced on Wednesday, after world leaders met in Paris to address climate change.
China will also reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power generation by 180 million tonnes by 2020, the official People's Daily website said. It did not give comparison figures or elaborate how it would achieve the result.
In Paris, Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said she had not seen the announcement, but linked it to expectations that China's coal use would peak by the end of the decade.
"I can only assume they are talking about the same thing," she told Reuters.
Researchers at Chinese government-backed think-tanks said last month that coal consumption by power stations in China would probably peak by 2020.
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday's announcement seemed to relate more to air pollutants than greenhouse gas emissions.
China's capital Beijing suffered choking pollution this week, triggering an "orange" alert, the second-highest level, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.
The smog was caused by "unfavourable" weather, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said. Emissions in northern China soar over winter as urban heating systems are switched on and low wind speeds meant that polluted air does not get dispersed.
The hazardous air, which cleared on Wednesday, underscores the challenge facing the government as it battles pollution caused by the coal-burning power industry and raises questions about its ability to clean up its economy.
Reducing coal use and promoting cleaner forms of energy are set to play a crucial role in China's pledges to bring its climate warming greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by around 2030.
China's delegate at the Paris talks, Su Wei, "noted with concern" what he called a lack of commitment by the rich to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and help developing nations with new finance to tackle global warming.
(Reporting by the Beijing Monitoring Desk and Sue-Lin Wong in Beijing and Barbara Lewis in Paris; Editing by Jason Neely)