BEIJING, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- China has shown "impressive seriousness" about combating climate change despite economic pressures, according to a senior U.S. energy official.
"China is dealing with a number of different imperatives at the same time. It has spent a great deal of focus on delivering more megawatts to the Chinese population, especially in the poor areas. That is understandable... But China has indicated a considerable seriousness [in its efforts to combat climate change]," said Jonathan Elkind, assistant secretary for the Office of International Affairs with the U.S. Department of Energy, at a forum in Beijing on Monday.
Elkind said at the event organized by Chinese thinktank the Center for China and Globalization that he was particularly impressed by the Chinese government’s pledge to reach a peak of emissions no later than 2030 and to lower the proportion of non-fossil energy sources in China’s total fuel mix to 20 percent in the same timeframe.
He noted China’s moves to limit polluting coal-fired power generation amid broader industrial reforms in the country. "A major evolution is taking place in the Chinese economic structure and this is a background force that no one can ignore, and decision-makers in China and the rest of the world should learn to respond intelligently to this trend."
As the foundation of the economy moves from heavy industry toward service, Elkind said he expected a big reduction in the number of Chinese depending on the steel sector and other heavy industries for their livelihoods.
Elkind, whose office is responsible for international energy cooperation, also highlighted the importance of energy partnerships between China and the United States.
"Our clean energy collaborations are more than a good idea, more than a matter of commercial opportunity for our respective companies. They are a matter of our mutual necessity," he said.
Private firms will play a bigger and bigger role in clean energy, coming up with new technology and creating jobs, according to Elkind.
From government bodies to enterprises, China and the United States have expanded their cooperation in energy conservation through platforms including the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition and the Clean Energy Ministerial.
Elkind said that these partnerships must continue. "The kind of U.S.-China leadership we saw from our leaders on the way to [the Paris Climate Conference] will now be required again -- both in terms of what we each do domestically and in terms of how our countries collaborate in order to deliver the low-carbon future that our societies need."