China's Future Generation 2.0Over the past decades, China’s rapid development has lifted Chinese citizens out of poverty faster and at a greater scale than any other time in human history. However, this development has not occurred without significant impacts to human and environmental health in China. For example, life expectancy in northern China is now 5.5 years less due to severe air pollution from mostly coal combustion; air pollution contributes to 1.6 million premature deaths per year in China, which is around 17% of all deaths in China; and water overuse, contamination, and waste have produced severe shortages across the country. Yet, China is still a comparably poor country, with a per capita GDP of $US 10,000, far less than many advanced economies.
China’s appetite for coal, oil, and gas to power its economy has made it the world’s largest CO2 emitter. Even on a per capita basis, China’s emissions are significant, and recently surpassed the EU’s in 2013. Considering these trends, China has a unique opportunity and responsibility to change its development model for the direct welfare of its citizens exposed to unsafe pollution levels and the impacts of climate change as well as the international community.
To get there, China must transform its 75% coal-fueled power sector. In February 2014, WWF partnered with Energy Transition Research Institute (Entri) to publish China’s Future Generation: Assessing the Maximum Potential for Renewable Power Sources in China to 2050 (Future Generation). This assessment concluded that around 80% of China’s electricity generation could be met by renewable sources by 205
0, which would be as affordable as electricity generation run primarily on coal.