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China Shows the Way on Environmental Protection

Aug 08, 2019

An electric bus runs on the Yanggongdi Causeway in the West Lake scenic area in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province, on July 28, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Two recent studies suggest China will be able to achieve its commitments to the Paris accord on protecting the environment much earlier than expected, making a great contribution to tackling a crucial issue for human survival.

One recent study, conducted by a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing University, and Harvard University, published in the magazine Nature Sustainability, highlighted that China could achieve its commitment approximately a decade earlier than the scheduled target.

Another study by Kelly Sims Gallagher of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, earlier this year came to a similar conclusion.

Notably, China, in its commitment to the U.N. in 2015 had pledged to contain its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP to 60-65% of the 2005 levels. Additionally, it vowed to boost its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to about 20% by 2030. This, it stated, would be accomplished by expanding its installed capacity of wind power to 200 GW and solar power to around 100 GW, up from 95.81 and 28 GW respectively as on November 2015.

According to the Sino-American study, per capita emissions would plunge with the corresponding rise of per capita income in a sample of 50 Chinese cities, and that this could be replicated nationwide, which could stimulate an overall reduction in the carbon dioxide emission level.

Therefore, despite the current target for emissions peaking by 2030, in reality, it could shrink somewhere between 2021 and 2025, thus facilitating China to achieve its commitment to the Paris agreement well ahead of schedule.

Haikun Wang of Nanjing University, a key researcher of the study, said: "It reflects China's great efforts in mitigating climate change and the 'new normal' of the economy, from high speed to high quality, which might cause carbon dioxide emissions to peak earlier."

This is in line with the Chinese government's vision of fostering high-quality economic growth and transforming the country into a green economy. These findings are especially important with the United Nations' Climate Action Summit coming up shortly when countries are expected to present their respective roadmaps on fulfilling their Paris commitments. The summit is scheduled to be held on September 23 this year in New York.

China has been the world's leading pollution emitter for more than a decade, accounting for 27% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The Chinese cities, as a result of rapid urbanization, account for more than 35% to the country's total emissions.

Thus, it is a key player in terms of its contribution to the U.N. to achieve its target of capping carbon emissions so the rise in global temperatures can be kept under two degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

An aerial photo of solar photovoltaic panels in Hengyang city, central China's Hunan province, on March 19, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Thankfully, in the last several years, China has taken numerous measures to fulfill its commitments. For instance, it has cut down its reliance on fossil fuels such as coal from 68.5% in 2012 to 59% today. Especially, the country's carbon emissions per GDP unit had dropped by 46% in 2017 from 2005 levels, meaning it has achieved its Copenhagen climate target of 40-45% reduction by 2020 from 2005 level three years ahead of schedule.

At the same time, the country's solar and wind energy component is expanding at a rapid rate. The solar-power capacity of the country had reached almost 130 GW while the wind capacity had reached 169 GW in 2017, which is higher than any other country in the world.

Moreover, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, China, in 2017, invested almost $133 billion in renewable energy, which was more than twice the investment in the U.S. Remarkably, China had already surpassed America in its investment in renewable energy sources in 2012.

Sadly, the efforts made in the direction of protecting environment are still not enough. According to Luis Alfonso de Alba, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Summit, at the current rate of emission, the global temperature will increase by more than three degrees Celsius failing the Paris agreement target of 1.5 degree Celsius.

Considering that some of the developed economies are backing out from their commitments towards meeting their NDC pledges, it becomes imperative for a major stakeholder like China to lead by example.

Already China is pushing its targets of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by implementing more stringent measures. Therefore, looking at the relentless efforts of the country along with the results of the recent studies, it can be said that China is in the right path towards exceeding its climate targets which is beneficial not just for itself but also for the whole planet. (China.org.cn)

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