China Carbon Emissions: Hope for the Future?

China, climate change, and new ambitions

10 years.  10 years is what Xi Jinping has given China before it needs to start driving down carbon emissions to combat climate change.  Peak in 10 years and be carbon neutral by 2060.

This is an incredible goal.

But what’s more incredible is that it has to happen.  It may seem ambitious, but it’s what is needed for the survival of the human race, as we are already losing countries to climate change’s effects.  In fact, China’s efforts alone do not put us on target to reach the goals set by the Paris Accord by the international community in 2015.

It does demonstrate a commitment to climate change solutions from the second largest emitter in the world and bring the discussion in front of the international community again.

In fact, Xi’s announcement at the UN followed a speech by US President Donald Trump, which some consider a calculated move.   By bringing climate to the forefront of Xi’s speech, it raises the question of whether or not the US will follow suit. Will the US join forces with the rest of the world to prevent further temperature increases that contribute to catastrophic climate change, or will it continue to prioritize its own short-sighted desires above long-term global needs?

the numbers

  • 10 years: How long Xi JinPing has given China to peak in carbon emissions
  • 2060: China wants to be carbon neutral
  • 25%+: China’s contribution to the world’s global emissions
  • 85%: The current percentage of China’s energy use dependent on fossil fuels
  • #2: Place China holds for world carbon emissions (behind the US, who takes the #1 standing in global carbon emissions)
  • 2.5˚C: The cap we’ve placed on global average temperature increase before we reach a tipping point and fall into catastrophic feedback loops that will alter the global systems that support life on earth as we currently know it
  • 0.3˚C: the highest estimate of temperature reduction from China’s efforts , if they indeed succeed with their peak and carbon neutrality plan.
  • 185: The number of countries that have pledged carbon emission reductions to reduce global climate change impacts
  • 1: The number of developed countries that have not presented a carbon emissions reduction pledge (America, under Trump)

so how can China do it?

China uses fossil fuels for 85% of its energy.  The remainder is filled in by renewable energies, such as wind and solar.  To reach the ambitious goal of being carbon neutral in 40 years, China would have to invest in renewable energy infrastructure to replace fossil fuels across the country.

China is also in a unique position to influence the course of energy use across the world, as one of the largest investor in fossil fuels.  If Xi’s country reduces its dependency on fossil fuels, the world will undoubtedly see a major shift in access to renewable energy.

Let’s hope Xi’s speech was not lip service, and some concrete plans emerge in the next few months as to how China will pursue these ambitious goals.

  • Barbara Anderson

    Very enlightening, Holly! I cringed when I read the USA is the only country not joining all the others in order to assist with climate change. I’m curious too, am just learning. Mitch McConnell, the 36 year Senator from Kentucky, is said to be very rich because his wife’s father has made millions selling cheap coal to China. Isn’t this a part of the problem? Wouldn’t he be supporting Trump’s decision to ignore the need for cutting back on fossil fuels? We have a woman running against him in November, a mother who served as a Marine, a Democrat….McConnell’s campaign ads blast her for “being too Liberal for Kentucky?” What are your thoughts on this, if any?

    • guiltygranola

      Well, in my opinion, it’s pretty evident that our capitalistic society encourages decisions based on the interests of the party representatives (driven by major companies and super rich campaign contributors), and not the greater good. So, yes, it’s a fact that we continue to support fossil fuels subsidies and big business that is invested in fossil fuels. When you are invested in certain industries, and you have the control to determine what industries remain profitable, the outcome is you ignore the greater good for your own self-interests. Our politicians have become short sighted and self-interested. While the planet is falling apart. It’s no longer about public service. It’s about power. It’s a campaign finance issue, and an agility issue- we take forever to change regulations, so many of them are outdated and are not keeping up with technology.
      The other thought is that we do have major American businesses selling coal to China to make products and goods that they then sell back to America, but we say we want jobs in America. If we could have clean energy-dependent factories in America, we could bring more jobs here, like every politician keeps promising but not pursuing. We don’t want emissions-spitting factories in OUR backyard so we manufacture everything elsewhere, to avoid the negative externalities of social and environmental injustice. We could manufacture more if we subsidized wind, solar and off-shore tidal energy. And it would create jobs in the energy sector (pull some of those destined-for-black-lung coal miners into a safer industry). But it would alter the good ol’ boy, fossil fuel invested system. Which a lot of our politicians are part of.

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