The Frontline of Climate Action: China’s Steps to Meet Requirements of COP21

The Frontline of Climate Action: China’s Steps to Meet Requirements of COP21


From Issue Sustainuary 2016: Planning For A Sustainable Future

This past December during the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, China pledged to peak its emissions in 2030 through a sixty to sixty-five percent reduction of carbon emissions per unit of GDP relative to the 2005 level. Put simply, as the Chinese economy grows, China will emit far less than it typically would. This ambitious goal is a crucial step toward controlling rapid climate change.

China expects to reduce its emissions after 2020 and has pledged to contribute money to the $100-billion-a-year  fund to help other developing countries reduce their emissions and cope with the ramifications of climate change. The country also hopes to increase its forest coverage by around 4.5 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level by 2030 to combat deforestation.

In order to meet the targets set by the COP21 agreement, China will implement a number of measures.  Fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles will be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019. In 2017, China will initiate a national emission trading system, covering key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, and papermaking. The country will also increase and reorganize use of renewable energy resources such as wind, water, and natural gas, and aim to increase use of green energy sources as part of central energy consumption to twenty percent by 2030 in addition to decreasing use of fossil-fuels. The percentage of buildings that utilize green technologies in cities and towns will reach fifty percent by 2020. Furthermore, the share of public transport will reach thirty percent in large and medium sized cities. These substantial changes, if made, could drive down prices for renewable energy because the  government would redirect capital to fund the shift to green programs, thus expanding the market for these technologies.

China’s pledge will hopefully motivate other countries to create and submit plans which take advantage of green technologies and the increasing role clean energy is playing in the global economy. The country has stated that it will work hard to peak emissions before 2030.

There is no doubt that China is committed to cultivating a greener economy, but its pledges, however commendable, do not fall within the boundaries set by the scientific community. Coal still accounts for sixty-six percent of China’s energy consumption and the country has a long way to go before it meets its targets. Furthermore, the country’s current plan is not consistent with the goal to limit the global increase in temperature below two degrees Celsius. Over the next fifteen years, China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is going to continue to emit those gases until 2030. Reduction of emissions from other developed countries and additional forest cover will not be able to compensate for China’s emissions.