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Transition to a Low-Carbon Future in China Towards 2 oC Global Target

Jiang Kejun, Chenmin He, and Jia Liu

Abstract The purpose of low-carbon development in China is for both national sustainable development and global climate change action. For the global climate change target 'to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 oC above preindustrial levels', China needs to peak in CO2 emissions by 2025 at the latest and then secure deep cuts in CO2 emissions. Previous studies on emission scenarios show that it is possible for China to peak in CO2 emissions by 2030 if strong policies are adopted, albeit at relatively high cost. In other words, peaking in CO2 emissions before 2025 represents a huge challenge for China. A modelling study conducted by IPAC on the 2-degree target stated that it is also still possible for China to peak in CO2 emissions before 2025 as long as several preconditions are satisfied, including optimised economic development, further energy efficiency improvements, enhanced renewable energy and nuclear development and CCS.

Energy-intensive industries consume more than 50 % of energy in China and account for more than 70 % of newly increased power output. Scenario analysis shows that many energy-intensive product outputs will reach a peak before 2020, with a much slower growth rate compared with that in the 11th Five-Year Plan, and therefore will significantly change the pathway for energy demand and CO2 emissions.

Energy efficiency should be further promoted. In the 11th Five-Year Plan, energy efficiency was improved significantly, and by reviewing what happened in this Plan compared to energy conservation efforts over the last several decades, as well as effort in other countries, it can be seen that China is now making unprecedented efforts in energy conservation. The target is to make China's energy efficiency in major sectors one of the best by 2030.

China is a now a leading country in new energy and renewable energy. Based on planning taking place in China, by 2020, renewable energy will provide 15 % of the total primary energy, which includes renewable energy excluded from the national energy statistics.

Another key factor is the increase in natural gas use in China. In the enhanced low-carbon scenario, natural gas use will be 350 BCM by 2030 and 450 BCM by 2050; and in the 2-degree scenario, it will be around 480 BCM by 2030 and 590 BCM by 2050. Together with renewable energy, this leaves coal use in China by 2050 at below 1 billion tonnes.

For CO2 emissions, carbon capture and storage could further contribute to CO2 emission reduction. China has to use CCS if large amounts of coal are used for the next several decades, but even with the enhanced low-carbon scenario, coal use will be around 1.8 billion tonnes by 2050.

Technological progress is a key assumption for a low-carbon future for China. The cost learning curve for wind and solar and many other technologies is much stronger than the model used. Such progress greatly reduces costs in wind power and solar power within 2 years.

Keywords Emission scenario • CO2 mitigation • Modelling • Energy transition • Emission target • China

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