Can China sustain annual pollution reductions?

China's government and other sources say that the country's carbon-dioxide emissions flattened out between 2013 and 2014. The leveling-off was a remarkable feat that could set the country on a course to beating its own goals for lowering emissions. But this optimistic outcome hinges on China overcoming some serious energy challenges, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Steven Gibb, a senior editor at C&EN, reports that a number of factors could help explain the emissions plateau. China reduced its carbon-intensive coal consumption by 2.9 percent in 2014 after a decade of double-digit annual growth. It has invested $90 billion in renewable energy such as solar and wind. And it is shifting toward a more service-oriented economy.

But China still faces daunting challenges in sustaining control over its emissions. In particular, the country's strategy to reach its carbon reduction goals had called for building one new nuclear power plant every three weeks. The shelved those plans after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster. Whether China can find new ways stay on its emission-cutting course remains to be seen.

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