China last week presented a new climate target: CO2 emissions must peak before 2030 and reach zero by 2060. Experts tell NU.nl that such a plan is feasible. But above all they call it an important signal that China, like the European Union, wants to continue with the Paris climate agreement, regardless of the election results in the US.
China has been making five-year plans for energy conservation and renewable energy for some time now, and has a reputation for implementing these plans.
Now there is a long-term goal on top: following the example of the European Union, China chose a time when the country’s CO2 emissions should be zero net.
“By 2060,” said an official statement addressed to the United Nations by Chinese President Xi Jinping. And one step more concrete: Chinese emissions must start a structural decrease before 2030.
Chinese target will lead to other investment choices in the short term
Climate researcher Detlef van Vuuren of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and Utrecht University is looking at emission trends in China, among others. He calls the target ambitious, but also thinks it is feasible. The plan must then lead to other investment choices in the short term.
“You have forty years to reach zero by 2060. Much of the infrastructure you build now is intended to last such a period. That means that you have to start now with the switch. In that sense, the goal is ambitious. but also necessary if we want to comply with the Paris Agreement worldwide. “
According to Van Vuuren, the country must now make choices: large-scale investments have already been made in sustainable energy in recent years, but also in coal-fired power stations. “The Chinese population is becoming more prosperous and so the need for a healthy living environment is also becoming a higher priority.”
“Limiting air pollution is an important reason for China to further reduce the use of coal and to switch to electric road traffic.”
‘Chinese ambition is the best climate news in years’
For the UN climate negotiations, the Chinese step may well be the best news in years, says Marcel Beukeboom, the Dutch climate envoy at the climate summits.
The Paris climate agreement was partly achieved through cooperation between China and the US under then President Barack Obama. However, his successor Donald Trump decided to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. After that, the EU mainly tried to keep the negotiations going and to tighten the targets.
“The new long-term goal is a very important and also unexpected step by China. With this ambition, China is moving towards the EU without knowing whether the US will change course. It is the most significant announcement of recent years.”
EU climate diplomacy is bearing fruit
Beukeboom thinks that the Chinese step is partly due to the persistence of the European Union, which has continued to work on its own climate plans in recent years and maintained a constructive relationship with China. “It seems that EU climate diplomacy is bearing fruit. In the dialogue, the EU has been lobbying for some time for China to set a long-term goal. In addition, the announcement comes shortly after the China-EU summit.”
He also takes a critical note: “The announcement to peak in CO2 emissions by 2030 is a bit disappointing. According to some studies, China’s CO2 emissions have already peaked. effort to set a more ambitious goal. “
A big step from the US is also expected in Biden’s election
Van Vuuren also emphasizes that the Chinese goal is probably not ambitious enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Then global CO2 emissions should be around net zero by 2050.
The European Union wants to have net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2050, and that is also the intention of presidential candidate Joe Biden, should he win the presidential election in November.
“Nevertheless, the Chinese target is a very important announcement and a big step in the right direction,” Beukeboom concludes.
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