China’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060 is unlikely to result in a rapid shift in energy use because of “inertia” in the energy and economic sectors, a leading climate research body has warned.
The report from the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University said the country should try to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and then “accelerate the transition” if it is to meet the target.
Last month President Xi Jinping made the commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 during a UN summit.
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“China’s economy and energy systems are big and complex. Inertia means it needs time and a huge effort,” He Jiankun, the lead author of the study, told an online seminar on Monday.
“China’s economy keeps growing as well as energy demand, which will result in new carbon dioxide emissions,” he continued, saying it would not be able to meet its targets immediately.
He contrasted this with energy demand in developed countries, which has essentially peaked, making it easier to start looking for ways to cut emissions.
The report said China should strengthen its contribution to the Paris climate accord – which has a target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius – by reducing its carbon intensity by more than 65 per cent from 2005 levels.
It also said the amount of energy produced by non-fossil fuels should rise to 20 per cent by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2030. They currently account for about 15 per cent of energy use.
Previous targets have aimed to increase the contribution of non-fossil fuels to 20 per cent by 2030.
The target for reducing carbon intensity – which measures the amount of carbon emitted by weight relative to the amount of energy consumed – was between 60 and 65 per cent.
“The carbon neutral target won’t wait for us and we don’t have time to waste,” said Li Shuo, senior climate and energy policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia.
“And there’s no reason to think that if the inertia cannot be resolved now, it will be easier to solve five or 10 years later.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at an independent research organisation Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, wrote on Twitter, that it was “clear that the 2060 carbon neutrality target is leading to raised ambitions and stronger long-term action but clearly there’s also an element of sugar-coating continued growth in emissions”.
However, he said he hoped “that reaching those mid-century targets means non-fossil energy development has to be scaled up now and that will help bring about a much faster emissions peak than is currently politically feasible to target”.
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Meanwhile, the report suggested carbon emissions in key cities and energy-intensive industries should peak in the next five years.
“Eastern provinces and energy-intensive industries such as steel, cement and chemicals should aim to peak during the 14th five-year plan [which ends in 2025],” He said, adding that it should aim to reach peak coal consumption over the same period.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China’s carbon neutral goal could cost over US$5 trillion
- How China can turn its carbon-neutral pledge into reality – and benefit its economy
- EU backs China carbon neutral pledge but ‘more climate work to be done’
- Climate change: Xi Jinping makes bold pledge for China to be carbon neutral by 2060
This article China’s carbon neutral goals slowed by ‘inertia’, climate scientists warn first appeared on South China Morning Post