How Practical Is China’s Carbon Neutral Initiative?

How Practical Is China’s Carbon Neutral Initiative?

China aims to hit peak emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. President Xi Jin Ping outlined the steps to be taken, in the UN General Assembly in New York through a video conference on 22nd September 2020. China is the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions.

The announcement is being considered as a significant step in the fight against climate change, and maybe to an extent is, but the window of affective implementation it promises, is almost laughable.

This announcement comes two days after Metronome in Manhattan installed a climate clock in one of its buildings. This clock displays the window we have to act within, in years, days, minutes, and seconds and it started from 7:103:15:40:07. This means we clearly have a little over seven years to act, beyond which the change will be irreversible and extinction of the human species would be very much visible. 

But China not only plans to achieve carbon neutrality in the next 40 years but actually mentions about reaching the peak of its carbon emissions in the coming ten years. One has to admire their confidence.

No great plan will ever be effective if it is not timely. There is no point setting up ambitious goals that would see the light of day when more than half of the world’s species have already perished and the other half is on its way. The plan seems too relaxed. Something that they can very easily not adhere to when the time comes, because it would already be too late.

One has to act now and not just China, all countries and every individual need to buckle up in order to bring about climate change reversal within the time interval mentioned in the clock. The number, or better called “The Earth’s Deadline” is based on calculations by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin. The clock was displayed until the 27th of September that is throughout the Climate Week.

With global climate negotiations stalled and this year’s conference of the parties ( COP26 ) postponed until 2021, this announcement can be seen as a silver lining because it is the first time China has

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committed itself to a long-term goal. This time, however, it might be a little too long.

Emissions from China continued to rise in 2018 and 2019 even when much of the world began to shift away from fossil fuels. While the Covid-19 crisis plunged the emissions by 25%, by June they had bounced back again as coal-fired plants, cement, and other heavy industries went back to work.

Some also believe that the timing of Jin Ping’s announcement may be related to Trump’s lack of initiatives against climate change. “Xi Jinping’s climate pledge at the UN, minutes after President Donald Trump’s speech, is clearly a bold and well-calculated move,” said Li Shuo, an expert on Chinese climate policy from Greenpeace Asia. “It demonstrates Xi’s consistent interest in leveraging the climate agenda for geopolitical purposes.”

“By playing the climate card a little differently, Xi has not only injected much-needed momentum to global climate politics but presented an intriguing geopolitical question in front of the world: on a globally common issue, China has moved ahead regardless of the US. Will Washington follow?”

So, before being overjoyed ask yourselves these questions. Most of the time big countries take major decisions for political benefit and not for the planet.

“His announcement that China will start down this road right away by adopting more vigorous policies is also welcome. Simply peaking emissions ‘before 2030’ won’t be enough to put China on the rapid path needed for carbon neutrality, but overall this is a very encouraging step”, said former US climate envoy Todd Stern.

It is, however, not all bad. Since China isn’t just the world’s biggest emitter but also the biggest energy financier and biggest market, its decisions play a major role in shaping how the rest of the world will follow. The announcement is also a major boost for the European Union, whose leaders were urging China to do just this. It shows hope for more international moves to curb climate change despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro to mystify climate change.

The bottom line persists as ‘the faster China reaches carbon neutrality, the better’.

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