Wednesday, December 2, 2020

China Pledges Carbon Neutrality by 2060

President Xi Jinping announced in September at a virtual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly that China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, will become carbon neutral by 2060, and to begin cutting its emissions within 10 years when their population peaks. Under President Xi Jinping goal emissions would continue to rise, from 9.8 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2020 and continue to rise until around 2030 and reach net zero by 2060.

Several Chinese research groups have been working to develop proposals to achieve this goal. According to Nature magazine: “The plans differ in their details, but agree that China must first begin to generate most of its electricity from zero-emission sources, and then expand the use of this clean power wherever possible, for example switching from petrol-fuelled cars to electric ones. It will also need technologies that can capture CO2 released from burning fossil fuels or biomass and store it underground, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Coal-fired power accounts for almost 65% of the country’s current electricity generation, with more than 200 new coal-fired power stations planned or under construction right now. How China plans to achieve this goal is not yet known, but officials are in the process of drafting the country’s next five-year plan which is expected to include policies to achieve neutrality when it is released in March.

Until now, China has claimed exemption from CO2 reduction requirements. It’s pledge under the Paris accord was to have its emissions peak by 2030 when its population is forecast to begin declining. It is assumed that CO2 neutrality will include reducing the other greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero, but that was not stated by President Xi Jinping.

One of the research groups, Tsingua University’s Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, proposed a route to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. In their plan electricity production would need to more than double, to 15,034 terawatt hours by 2060, largely from clean sources. This growth would be driven by an increase in renewable electricity generation including a 16-fold increase in solar and a 9-fold increase in wind, nuclear power would need to increase 6-fold, and hydroelectricity to double. In a centrally planned and controlled economy this level of change over a short period of time is possible. I look forward to China’s release of their plan for emissions reduction and changing their commitments under to Paris accord to reflect their new CO2 emissions goals.

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