Nuclear fusion, smart grids and more: this is how China wants to become climate neutral

Surprisingly to many, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua announced on November 11, 2021 at the United Nations climate conference COP26 in Glasgow that his country and the United States had reached an agreement on climate protection. : “As two great powers of the world, we must take responsibility for other parties to work together to tackle climate change. US climate envoy John Kerry confirmed the deal. After all, 40% of the world’s CO2 comes from2Emissions from these two countries alone.

As early as September 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping specifically visited the United Nations General Assembly for the first time The climate future of his country a: “Our goal is to reach the peak of CO2-Emissions to be achieved by 2030 and CO by 20602– Become neutral. “Even more: he announced that China will no longer build coal-fired power plants abroad. Xi had already put environmental and climate issues on the domestic political agenda between 2003 and 2007. At that time, he was still secretary of the Zhejiang Province Party Committee.

With its promises, China has moved away from its previous accusation of historic guilt of rich states. According to this, the first countries are forced to reduce greenhouse gases, which have had the greatest amount of CO since the start of industrialization2 deposited in the atmosphere. The United States, for example, has stored 410 billion tonnes of CO since pre-industrial times2 in the atmosphere, China with 220 billion tons is only a little more than half. So the world had a problem even before China appeared on the world economic stage.

This turnaround is not accidental, as are in-depth analyzes of the Carbonbrief and Nature Pin up.

Since 2008, according to the “Our World in Data” website the Oxford University at the top of CO2– Issuers from all over the world. In 2020, its share was 10.67 billion tonnes, 30 percent of global CO2Emissions, a little more than twice as high as the USA with 4.81 billion tonnes of CO2.

However, if you look at the emissions per capita, the picture changes. Because for every Chinese there is only about 7.1 tons of CO2 per year, for each American with 16 tons more than twice as much. And this despite the fact that China, as the factory of the world, produces a large part of the consumer goods for the rich world, for which it must offset its emissions, for example in the production of plastics.

In the 14th five-year plan, which was adopted by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Congress in early March 2021, the long-term climate goals Xi announced at the 75th United Nations General Assembly have now been set in writing.

The plan matters 20 economic and social development goals binding, four of them explicitly refer to the reduction of energy consumption, the reduction of CO emissions2-Emissions, nationwide reforestation and sustainable and extensive energy production capacity.

Based on the decisions of the People’s Congress, the central government presented a detailed work guide and action plan for 2030 in October 2021. For the first time, they describe the concrete steps China is taking to reduce its CO2– Wants to achieve goals.

Important points in this regard are the strengthening of basic research and research into advanced technologies, which, in addition to nuclear fusion, also includes the development of smart electricity grids and new materials. The two decrees also contain plans to increase the share of electricity produced from renewable and nuclear sources from 16% to 80% by 2060. CO research2Separation and sequestration must be stepped up and, by 2030, electric and hybrid vehicles are expected to account for 40% of all vehicles sold.

Overall, China is now increasing its investment in low-carbon energy technologies, from hydrogen fuel cells to batteries. But research into market-based emission control mechanisms will also play a role, such as CO2– Taxes and commercial systems. In addition, there are models that help local authorities and industries set realistic reduction targets.

According to Nature’s research, more than ten scientific institutes were founded in China in 2021 alone to conduct research on climate issues.

But in the four decades of the more than ten gigatons of CO annually2 Coming to zero means a scale and speed of change no other country has yet dared, Nature cites a statement from the energy system modeler Gang It from Stony Brook University in New York, who has studied China’s energy system in depth.

Last but not least, the population must also be taken away, he said. It is also important to know which segments of the population the upheaval is affecting the most and how to help them cope.

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Part of the big change, however, will also be the change in teaching at universities. Points to this Zhang Xiliang hin, climate modeler and director of the Institute for Energy, the Environment and the Economy at Tsinghua University. For example, traditional engineering topics such as coal-fired boiler technology and combustion engines will need to be phased out in the future.

But even if China succeeds in meeting its hugely ambitious targets, they will not help keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, according to Yan Qin, economist and CO2—Model analyst at Refinitiv in Oslo, a company that provides data on financial markets.

But China’s size alone means its commitments have a global impact, according to Pep canadell, scientist at CSIRO Climate Science Center of the Australian government in Canberra. “When China moves a little left or right, up or down, the whole world feels it. Canadell is convinced that China’s goals are not as ambitious as some would like, but at least realistic: “What China should do sometimes is not what China can offer. “


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