Can China go net zero in 2060 ?

 

On September 22, during the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping surprised everyone by announcing that his country would become “carbon neutral” by 2060. On time that President Trump pull the country out of environmental agreements, it’s legitimate to wonder if this commitment is a political maneuver or a real goal ? How will the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, achieve such an ambitious goal ?

Chinese engagement

China is the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases. According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration), the country’s primary energy consumption rested at 58 % on coal in 2019. That’s why President Xi Jinping’s commitment at the UN General Assembly surprised so much. Indeed, he declared that his country wanted to become carbon-neutral by 2060 with the ambition of reducing national CO2 emissions before 2030. This commitment would therefore require an upheaval in the Chinese energy mix which is essentially based on fossil fuels.

As a reminder, carbon neutrality means that we manage to offset all greenhouse gas emissions, with a system that captures and removes these gases from the atmosphere.

A political commitment ?

This announcement comes in the midst of a conflict with the United States. This can therefore be seen as a way for China to weaken the political credibility of the United States in terms of sustainable development. Especially since this is the first time that China has made such a commitment. 

President Xi Jinping also took the liberty of recalling that « all countries must take decisive action in order to honor the Paris Agreement ». An announcement that seems to say that today Beijing takes the climate issue much more seriously than the United States.

A realistic commitment ?

Despite the symbolism of this commitment, many scientists and associations believe that this goal may be achievable. Indeed, in recent years, China has embarked on a massive development of renewable energies.

It is now the first country in the world for hydroelectricity, notably with the huge Three Gorges dam on the Yangzi River. First country in the world also for wind power or solar photovoltaic power : in both cases 30 % of global production.

Zoé Dupont-Vallée

Sources and additional information :

The Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/05/china-plan-net-zero-emissions-2060-clean-technology

Grist : https://grist.org/climate/can-china-go-net-zero-two-charts-show-just-how-ambitious-xi-jinpings-goal-is/

France TV info : https://www.francetvinfo.fr/replay-radio/un-monde-d-avance/la-chine-s-engage-a-atteindre-la-neutralite-carbone-en-2060_4099553.html#xtor=RSS-3-%5Bmonde/environnement%5D

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