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China met its 2020 carbon intensity target three years ahead of schedule last year, the official Media agency reported on Tuesday, citing the country’s top climate official Xie Zhenhua.

China cuts its 2005 carbon intensity level, or the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide it produces per unit of economic growth, by 46 per cent in 2017, Xie told forum in Shanghai on Tuesday.

China is the world’s biggest energy consumer.

Carbon intensity fell 5.1 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year, the media said, suggesting that China’s war on pollution also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

China originally promised to cut its 2005 carbon intensity by 40 per cent to 45 per cent.

The pledge, first made in 2009, was included in the country’s commitments to the international community ahead of negotiations for a new global climate pact in Paris in 2015.

However, China struggled to honour another promise to establish a nationwide emissions cap and trade system by 2017.

The scheme was delayed by technical problems, including the reliability of emissions data.

The country eventually settled for a scaled-back scheme involving only the power sector, which was launched in December last year.

Xie said that the national market, though only at an embryonic stage, already covers about 1,700 power firms with total carbon dioxide emissions in excess of three billion tonnes, making it the world’s biggest.

He said China would continue to work to expand coverage to other industries.

But the issue has been complicated by the decision, made at this year’s full session of parliament.

The aim was CTO transfer responsibility for climate change and carbon emissions to an expanded Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

It was previously under the remit of the state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Xie was formerly vice-chairman of the NDRC and is now a special envoy with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is hard task to launch China’s national carbon trading market,” said Peter Corne, managing partner at the legal firm Dorsey & Whitney in Shanghai, who follows China’s environmental policies.

“It is questionable whether in the short term, the new ministry can be elevated in status and power to the extent that it will quickly assume the influential role that the NDRC occupied in the area of climate change,” he added.