Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Can China become carbon neutral by 2060?

The world's biggest polluter of greenhouse gases China  has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060 during the United Nations General Assembly in New York  on Sep 22. It's the first time China has issued concrete plans to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions. If achieved, this could curb likely global warming by 0.2-0.3 Celsius this century.

China has not yet revealed details of how it will do this. But a research group at Tsinghua University presented a $15 trillion, 30-year road map on 27 September that calls for ending the use of coal for electricity generation around 2050, dramatically increasing nuclear and renewable power generation, and relying on electricity for 80% of China’s energy consumption by 2060.

New commitment is seen as a key development in the fight against climate change, and the most significant climate policy move in recent years. Prior to this announcement, the country’s target, set during the 2015 Paris climate deal, was to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 (see the diagram below).

Now the country is responsible for around 28% of global carbon emissions. In 2019, the carbon-heavy coal accounted for about 58% of China’s total energy consumption and 66% of its electricity generation. It is a huge challenge to change the situation, especially, taking into account most recent trendChina’s coal-fired generating capacity grew by about 40 gigawatts (GW) in 2019, to about 1050 GW. Another 100 GW is under construction and coal interests are lobbying for even more plants.

Based on the combined efforts of the nearly 200 climate pledges made through the Paris climate agreement, the world is expected to warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But if China achieves carbon neutrality by 2060, global warming will be reduced to 2.4 to 2.5 degrees.