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China’s climate commitment

  • IASbaba
  • October 3, 2020
  • 0
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ENVIRONMENT/ INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

China’s climate commitment

Context: Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping made two promises that came as a welcome surprise to climate change watchers.

What has China announced?

  • First, Xi said, China would become carbon net-zero by the year 2060. 
  • Also, China now aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 (earlier China had committed to peak by 2030). That means China would not allow its greenhouse gas emissions to grow beyond that point. 

What is Net-Zero State?

  • Net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. 
  • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal involves application of technologies such as carbon capture and storage

Why is net-zero an important target?

  • Scientists and climate change campaign groups say global carbon neutrality (net-zero) by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times. 
  • At the current rate of emissions, the world is headed for a 3° to 4°C rise in temperatures by 2100.

Do You Know?

  • China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It accounts for almost 30% of global emissions, more than the combined emissions in the United States, the European Union and India, the three next biggest emitters
  • Currently, just 15 percent of the China’s energy mix is provided by renewables.

How significant is China’s commitment?

  • Signifies Long Term Commitment: Getting China to commit itself to a net-zero target, even if it is 10 years later than what everyone has in mind, is a big breakthrough, especially since countries have been reluctant to pledge themselves to such long term commitments.
  • Helps Paris Climate Deal to Succeed: The Chinese goal, if realised, would lower global warming projections for 2100 by about 0.2° to 0.3°C, the most impactful single action ever taken by any country.

What is the Politics behind China announcing such measures?

  • Environmental Leadership: The announcement gives China an opportunity to show environmental leadership at the same time as the United States retreats from the issue
  • Image Makeover: The 2060 pledge reflects China’s desire to showcase itself as a “responsible international player” after a storm of negative attention (spats with India over borders, the EU over rights abuses, Australia over security and the US over everything from trade and technology)
  • Rule Setter: Xi’s pledge plays into his larger agenda of promoting China as a global standard setter. If the global direction of travel is away from coal and towards cheap renewables and green tech, China could put itself at the forefront of a new economic order.
  • Domestic Political Dividends: Taking coal plants offline, meeting stringent emissions targets and pleasing the population by curbing pollution could also deliver a strategic win to the Chinese Communist Party, which prevents incentive to rebel for Democracy.
  • Puts Pressure on India: European Union and 70 other countries (that have relatively low emissions) have committed itself to a net-zero emission status by 2050. Leadership by China in Environmental Initiatives puts pressure on other two big emitters – USA and India

What is India’s commitment?

  • India has resisted pressure to make a long-term commitment, citing the fact that developed countries had utterly failed in keeping their past promises, and never delivered on the commitments they made earlier. 
  • India has also been arguing that the climate change actions it has been taking are, in relative terms, far more robust than those of the developed countries.
  • If one looks at the pledges that have been made in the Paris Agreement, India is the only G20 country whose actions are on track to meet the 2° goal. The other developed countries actually have to make efforts towards a 1.5° world, but they are failing even to do enough to meet the 2° target
  • Climate Action Tracker puts India’s actions as “2°C compatible”, while the US, China and even the European Union’s current efforts are classified as “insufficient”

Conclusion

The announcements by China was a great one in the fight against climate change. Now we need commitments to the challenging objective of big emissions reductions over the next decade. 

Connecting the dots:

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