Analysis examines China’s new Paris Agreement pledge
WHAT: In-depth analysis
published by Carbon Brief last Thursday has examined two key climate documents China submitted to the UN at the end of October. One of them was China’s revised 2030 pledge
(known as a nationally determined contribution
, NDC), which – among other targets – confirmed that the country would peak its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions “before 2030” and achieve net-zero emissions “before 2060”. The other
was a new long-term climate strategy (LTS), which set out what China described as “strategic visions” for 2060 and covered a wide range of social, economic and governance areas. The analysis – authored by Hongqiao Liu along with Xiaoying You, Carbon Brief’s China editor – studied both documents in detail, evaluated their key goals and assessed their implications on China’s emissions and energy sector.
Both documents were submitted on 28 October, just two days before the start of COP26
. (Read Carbon Brief’s analysis of the complete key outcomes of the UN climate talks in Glasgow here
or the key outcomes for food, forests, land use and nature here
.) Following the publication of the updated targets, many international observers and media outlets voiced disappointment (here
, for example). However, experts interviewed by Carbon Brief believed that “the combination of targets in the documents, if fully implemented, could still lead to a lower peak in emissions being reached earlier than the officially stated goal of ‘before 2030’”.
NDC: Apart from confirming the 2030 and 2060 goals, the new NDC set some quantitative targets for 2030, the analysis said. They included reducing CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65% from 2005 levels, increasing the proportion of non-fossil energy to “around 25%” and increasing forest stock volumes by 6bn cubic metres from 2005 levels. The installed capacity of wind and solar power would also surpass 1,200 gigawatts (GW), per the document. Carbon Brief’s analysis included a table that compared all of the numerical targets set in China’s first NDC with those in the new version.
LTS: In comparison, according to the analysis, China’s new LTS had just one quantitative goal for 2060: an 80% share of energy from non-fossil fuels, increasing from “around 25%” set in the updated NDC. Nevertheless, it carried several quantitative targets for 2025 and 2030, which were not detailed in the revised NDC. Those quantitative targets involved key areas such as buildings, transport and forestry. One of them, for example, stipulated that “about 40%” of the new vehicles sold in 2030 in China would be powered by “new energy” or clean energy.
OTHERS: In addition to the forensic assessment of the targets, the analysis explored the new documents’ implications on China’s emissions and energy sector. Moreover, it looked at the challenges for China in its response to global climate change and rounded up the reaction from media outlets both inside and outside China. The analysis said that “[China] not only faces the technical challenges of turning away from its heavy reliance on coal and rapidly scaling up replacement clean energy, but also the need to balance sometimes competing priorities in terms of economic growth, social cohesion and international relations”.
Beijing’s senior advisers explain government’s climate policy
During COP26 last month, Carbon Brief was granted a rare opportunity by the Chinese delegation to interview two of its senior climate advisers. The 80-minute conversation – held between Hongqiao Liu and Prof Wang Yi and Prof Wang Zhongying in Glasgow – was filmed, transcribed and translated before being published on 10 December. In the article
, the two advisers covered various topics, including China’s energy transition, domestic coal policy, the recent power shortages, the nation’s “dual carbon” goals, and the importance of international cooperation on climate change. Below are some highlight quotes.
ON MAKING PLEDGES, Prof Wang Zhongying said: “When [our] government says something, it is something that has to be achieved…From the government’s point of view – and I’m talking about under our own government regulatory framework – if the government makes a statement, it will not make empty promises.”
ON SETTING GOALS, Prof Wang Yi Said: “Being a big country, China needs to weigh up different goals…As a state, it needs to strike this balance and consider whether achieving one goal will affect the others and to make its best efforts to make such decisions more balanced.”
ON COAL PLANTS,
Prof Wang Zhongying said: “President Xi now speaks of ‘strictly limit[ing] the growth of coal power [projects]’ and the word has already been spoken
. From our point of view, what we need to do now is to further constantly lower the operating hours of installed coal power, while keeping the power system operating smoothly, safely and efficiently. And, here, “efficiency” means to accommodate more [renewable energy].”
ON PEAKING EMISSIONS, Prof Wang Yi said: “Peaking emissions is actually not such a difficult thing. An administrative order would have done it, right? But we didn’t opt for that. We are hoping to integrate carbon neutrality into the whole process of socio-economic transformation. It is a matter of social stability and development, as well as how to transition in this process.”
ON RECENT POWER SHORTAGES, Prof Wang Yi said: “I don’t think [they] are going to have much of an impact on our long-term goals. Rather, they are to make our policy implementation more steady and allow us to [complete the transition] more smoothly without having more risks.”
ON ENERGY SECURITY, Prof Wang Zhongying said: “Nowadays, when we talk about energy security, it is not just a simple matter of securing supply and demand. It also includes environmental security and climate security. It is reasonable to say that it is actually a combination of three types of security – namely, supply and demand security, environmental security and climate security, none of which can be left out.”