According to the Financial Times, China’s President Xi Jinping surprised the global community by announcing last month a hugely ambitious plan to improve China’s environment and make the country carbon-neutral by 2060.
In addition, he said the country’s emissions would peak before 2030.
But does this really mean anything? If it does, what impact will it have on the country’s massive steel industry? The steel industry, of course, is the source of a significant proportion of the country’s carbon emissions?
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China’s environment and emissions figures
Firstly, let’s look at the scale of the proposition.
China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane).
Last year, China’s emissions accounted for roughly 27% of the global total. The country’s total accounted for more than the U.S., Europe and Japan combined, the Financial Times reported.
Furthermore, the country consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together. In addition, China continues to commission new coal power plants.
On the one hand, China also leads the world in the deployment of solar power, wind power and electric vehicles. Its energy-efficiency policies are ambitious and successful. Significantly, there are no known climate change deniers in the Chinese leadership.
But is the pledge meaningful?
It contrasts poorly with that made by almost 70 countries and the E.U. Those countries have already pledged to make their economies “net-zero” greenhouse gas emitters by mid-century, or 10 years earlier than China’s pledge.
And the 2030 peak emissions date is a rehash of a commitment made back in 2014, suggesting peak emissions could be reached well before 2030 and the authorities are simply back-sliding.
The scale of the challenge vis-a-vis China’s environment and emissions is considerable.
More than 85% of China’s primary energy last year came from coal, oil, and natural gas, all of which produce carbon dioxide. This came despite massive investment in solar and wind.