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China’s climate commitment

Date: 07 October 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

President Xi Jinping announced to the world that China, responsible for 28 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, would phase out any conventional use of coal, oil, and gas to achieve the goal of “carbon neutrality” by 2060.

 

Background

If China is able to deliver on the climate neutrality pledge by mid-century, it will lower global warming projections by around 0.2 to 0.3 degrees Celsius, the single-biggest reduction measured since countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015.

 

Details

  • China would become carbon net-zero by the year 2060. Net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

  • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal involves application of technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

  • For the last couple of years, there has been a concerted campaign to get countries, especially the big emitters, to commit themselves to achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050.

  • This is sometimes referred to as the state of net-zero emissions that would require countries to significantly reduce their emissions, while increasing land or forest sinks that would absorb the emissions that do take place.

  • If the sinks are not adequate, countries can commit themselves to deploying technologies that physically remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Most of such carbon dioxide removal technologies are still unproven and extremely expensive.

  • Scientists and climate change campaign groups say global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.

  • At the current rate of emissions, the world is headed for a 3° to 4°C rise in temperatures by 2100.

  • China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It accounts for almost 30% of global emissions, more than the combined emissions in the United States, the European Union, and India, the three next biggest emitters.

  • Getting China to commit itself to a net-zero target, even if it is 10 years later than what everyone has in mind, is a big breakthrough, especially since countries have been reluctant to pledge themselves to such long term commitments.

  • The Chinese announcement is naturally expected to increase pressure on India to follow suit, and agree to some long-term commitment even if it was not exactly 2050 net-zero goal. That is something that India is unlikely to do.

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