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Why China's climate policy matters to us all

by Lester Blair
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China’s emissions of carbon dioxide are enormous and rising, surpassing other countries.

Experts are unanimous in their belief that the world can’t win against climate change if it doesn’t reduce China’s greenhouse gas emissions.

China’s President Xi Jinping stated that his country wants its carbon emissions to rise to their maximum point by 2030, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

However, he did not say how China would achieve this very ambitious goal.

China has the most difficult task of any country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

China has a half-millionth of US’s total emissions per capita, yet its enormous population and its explosive economic growth put it ahead of all other countries in terms of overall emissions.

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China was the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, accounting for over 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The COP26 global summit on climate in November will be intensely scrutinized over the commitments it made to reduce them.

China signed the Paris Agreement along with other signatories in 2015. They agreed to take steps to reduce global warming by 1.5C, above pre-industrial levels, as well as “well below” 2C.

China has increased its 2020 commitments, however, Climate Action Tracker is an international network of scientists and policy specialists that says China’s current efforts to achieve this goal are inadequate.

Experts agree that China can reduce its emissions, although it will take a major shift in mindset.

For decades, coal was the main energy source in this country. Its use is on the rise.

China’s President Xi has stated that it will reduce its coal consumption starting in 2026 and not develop new coal-fired power plants abroad. However, some countries and campaigners are concerned about the plan.

Tsinghua University Beijing researchers claim that China should stop using coal to generate electricity. They will instead use nuclear or renewable energy.

China has been busy building new coal-fired power plants at over 60 sites across China, and many of these locations have more than one.

According to Philippe Ciais, a researcher at the Institute of Environment and Climate Science, Paris, new stations can be active from 30-40 years. China must therefore reduce its capacity of older plants in order to lower emissions.

Although retrofitting some plants to capture carbon emissions may be possible, the technology is still in development and will require that many plants be disposed of after only a small amount of use.

China claims it is entitled to emit carbon dioxide as a result of its economic development and poverty reduction.

Researchers at Tsinghua University believe that 90% of the power will come from renewables and nuclear energy by 2050.

China’s leadership in green technology manufacturing, including large-scale battery production and solar panels, could be an important help as we move towards this goal.

China adopted green technologies for the first time to combat air pollution. It is now a significant problem for cities across China.

The government believes that they also have tremendous economic potential. They could provide income and jobs for millions of Chinese and reduce China’s dependency on oil and other gas.

Yue Cao from the Overseas Development Institute states that China has already led the global energy transition. China is one of the main reasons that we can deploy green technology cheaper and more affordable.

China produces more solar energy than any other nation. This might seem a little surprising given China’s large population but it shows where China is headed.

In 2020, China had more wind power installations than any other country.

China claims that 25% of its energy will come from non-fossil fuels by 2030. It is believed to have already reached this target.

China is seventh on the list for electric car sales, although it has the largest number of electric vehicles. Around one-in-20 cars sold in China use electric motors.

Calculating how much the switch to electric vehicles will reduce emissions can be difficult, particularly when considering manufacturing and charging source.

Studies show that the emissions of electric vehicles over the life of their batteries are often lower than those produced by petrol and diesel.

It is important because transportation accounts for approximately 25% of the carbon emissions from gasoline combustion. Road vehicles are the biggest emitters.

China will produce battery cells with twice the power of all the other nations by 2025.

It will, according to experts, allow for the storage of and releases from energy sources that are renewable on a scale previously unimaginable.

However, China won’t stop producing greenhouse gases if it reaches net zero.

This means that China will reduce its emissions to the greatest extent possible, and it will absorb any remaining carbon through a variety of approaches.

As carbon dioxide is absorption by plants, increasing the land area covered with vegetation can help.

There is good news again. China is becoming greener than ever before, in large part due to its forest programmes that reduce soil erosion.

Partially, it is due to replanting farms in order produce more than one harvest each year. This keeps the land under vegetation longer.

China is the only country that can succeed in this world.

Prof David Tyfield, Lancaster Environment Centre says that unless China reduces its carbon emissions we won’t be able to combat climate change.

China is a country with many great advantages. It has the ability to follow long-term strategies, and to mobilize large investments.

Chinese officials are faced with a huge task. The next steps are crucial.

Source: BBC.com

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