Climate Change

China’s Policies and Actions


As the world's largest developing country, China is striving to meet a grand goal: to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

This ambitious target means China will complete the world's most dramatic reduction in carbon emission intensity, and realise carbon neutrality from carbon peaking in the shortest time in global history.

As a country that has always walked its talk, China is working toward the climate goal with a Herculean effort backed by meticulous planning. Here are some key facts and data people need to know:

It is widely recognised by the international community that developed countries have an un-shirkable historical responsibility for global climate change due to their unbridled emissions during their industrialisation over the past 200 years.

The United States, the world's largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases, emits 3.3 times more carbon per capita than the global average registered in 2017.

As a manufacturing powerhouse, China's level of carbon emissions per person is less than half of that of the United States. China's cumulative emissions per person are one eighth of those of the United States. The world's major developed economies have all reached carbon peak. Britain, France, Germany and the European Union (EU) reached carbon peak in the 1970s, while the United States and Japan did so in 2007 and 2013, respectively.

It is also noteworthy that these countries all reached carbon peak naturally with the evolution of development stages and the transfer of high-carbon industries.

In September last year, China updated its nationally determined contribution targets which aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, giving China a gap of about 30 years between the two targets. In comparison, the gap for the EU will be 71 years, the United States 43 years and Japan 37 years.

"The climate change issue is not about climate change only, but is closely related to a country's economy, society, environment, employment and other fields," said Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change, at the ongoing 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

China has translated its pledges on carbon emissions peaking and carbon dioxide neutrality into concrete actions. According to the World Bank, China has accounted for more than half of the world's entire energy savings since 2005.

Measures countries around the world have been taking to cut emissions usually include improving energy efficiency, optimising energy mix, developing renewable energy, adjusting industrial structure and developing forest carbon sequestration.

"China's contribution in these said areas accounts for about 30 percent to 50 percent of the world's total," said Xie, noting that China's contribution to global emissions reduction is plain to see.

On October 27, China released a white paper to document its policies, actions and progress in mitigating climate change, and to share its experience and approaches with the rest of the world.

China is committed to building a global climate governance system that is fair, rational, cooperative and beneficial to all, and makes its due contribution to tackling climate change using its greatest strengths and most effective solutions, said the white paper titled "Responding to Climate Change: China's Policies and Actions."

China's carbon intensity in 2020 was 48.4 percent less than that in 2005, which means that China had more than fulfilled its commitment to the international community - to achieve a 40-45 percent reduction in carbon intensity from the 2005 level by 2020, data from the white paper showed.

The drop in carbon intensity translates to a total reduction of about 5.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2020, and demonstrates that China has largely reversed the rapid growth of its carbon dioxide emissions, the data shows.

In addition, China's investment in renewable energy ranks first in the world for many years, and the cost of renewable energy is decreasing day by day. China has also built a large number of solar and wind farms.

In terms of increasing forest carbon sinks, China has maintained growth in forest area and forest stock volume for 30 consecutive years, making China the country with the largest increase in forest resources in the world.

China has topped the world in new energy vehicles (NEVs) output and sales for the last six years, with its NEV fleet reaching 6.78 million, including 5.52 million electric vehicles.

In the years between 2005 and 2020 when China made great strides in its climate actions, its gross domestic product (GDP) increased by more than four times and the number of rural people living in poverty decreased by nearly 100 million.

"This means China has embarked on a path of de-carbonisation that can coordinate relatively well with its economic and social development," Xie said.

According to a guiding document on China's work to achieve carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals released on October 24 by the Chinese authorities, China aims to gradually increase the share of non-fossil energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2025, around 25 percent by 2030, and over 80 percent by 2060.

By 2025, the country's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be lowered by 18 percent from the 2020 level, and by 2030 will have dropped by more than 65 percent compared with the 2005 level.

By 2025, China's energy consumption per unit of GDP will be lowered by 13.5 percent from the 2020 level, the forest coverage rate will have reached 24.1 percent, and the forest stock volume will have risen to 18 billion cubic meters. (This is a slightly contestable statement, because China has been planting billions of single type of trees to prevent desert proliferation (poplars) and that is not useful for the soil)

By 2030, China's total installed capacity of wind power and solar power will reach over 1,200 gigawatts, the forest coverage rate will have reached about 25 percent, and the forest stock volume will have reached 19 billion cubic metres.

By 2060, China will have fully established a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system, with energy efficiency reaching the advanced international level, according to the guideline.

[Source: People’s Daily (On-Line)]

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Vol. 54, No. 23, Dec 5 - 11, 2021