2020-10 30
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How crucial is China's 14th Five-Year Plan to meet carbon neutrality?



As Chinese leaders gather to prepare the economic blueprint for the next five years, climate change experts are curiously waiting for the announcements related to green development. The accepted proposals at China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for economic and social development would help them understand its initial blueprint for meeting the carbon neutrality pledge by 2060. Key areas of interest include decarbonization of energy-intensive sectors like power, cement, steel, transport, buildings, and meat production. Expansion of forest cover, carbon market, and new energy inclusion has also piqued the interest of environmentalists. But equally important is the path China will take to reach zero-emission. "There is a slight difference in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European Union's (EU) definition of carbon neutrality goal of 2050," Hu Min, executive director at innovative Green Development Program (iGDP), said to CGTN Digital.  According to IPCC, carbon neutrality means carbon dioxide emissions generated from human activity are balanced globally by humans using various methods. But the EU's initiative covers most of the greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, for achieving carbon neutrality. "It's yet to be decided which definition we will follow, but clearly, the EU goal is much more challenging," Hu added. In order to meet the carbon neutrality pledge, China would have to phase out fossil fuels and massively increase the share of renewable energy. He Jiankun, academic chair of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, estimates that China would have to increase the share of non-fossil energy to more than 90 percent of the total power generation by 2050 to ensure zero-emission by 2060. "The 14th Five-Year Plan could be vital to knowing the path our policymakers are paving to meet carbon neutrality and ensure economic growth," He said.   China will have to increase renewable energy to 90 percent by 2050 to meet the carbon neutrality goal. If China increases the renewable mix to 90 percent, then it would have four times as much solar power capacity and three times as much wind power capacity as the entire world has today. The massive shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy would require an investment of up to 100 trillion yuan ($15 trillion) for technological upgrades in the next 30 years.  "In terms of global capital flows, the 2060 pledge has an impact on China both as a recipient and provider of cross-border financing," said Wang Yao, director-general of the International Institute of Green Finance to CGTN Digital.  "From a recipient perspective, the new guidelines highlight that China must actively work to attract and facilitate flows of international capital into the country," Wang added. Policymakers might also significantly boost hydrogen, along with solar and wind power to decarbonize the energy sector. "Similar to solar, hydrogen deployment will witness a boom. Both Europe and China are already trying to scale up the production of this fuel," said Sada Wachche, a transport analyst and graduate of UC Davis Transport-Energy programs. "China also announced to use hydrogen in light and heavy vehicles, and it would be interesting to see how this fuel is incorporated in the upcoming policies," he said. Apart from curbing emissions, initiatives on developing carbon sinks --natural systems like oceans, forests and soil-- which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have generated much interest among environmentalists. The development of natural systems would also help the country boost its biodiversity, giving a strong message as a host of the Global Biodiversity Conference (COP15) next year. Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:October 30, 2021

2020-10 13
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U.S. urged to follow China and EU in setting a carbon neutral target



The U.S. should follow the lead of the European Union and China in setting ambitious targets for carbon neutrality. That's according to the secretary-general of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas.  Last month, President Xi Jinping announced plans for China to become carbon neutral by 2060, while the EU had already planned to be neutral by 2050.  "All in all I think that this announcement is great, since at least European Union countries and China are now sharing common reason, that's very good news. And I hope that also the U.S. will join that club in the near future," Taalas said.  U.S. President Donald Trump has previously called the Paris Climate Agreement, a one-sided accord and has also criticized China for being the world's largest carbon emitter.  Taalas said: "China is contributing 25 percent of the global emissions and one of your [China's] major challenges is that your energy production is very much based on coal-fired power plants." But China has made record investments in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power as well as selling it all over the world, he added.  Global temperatures reached record highs in Europe and globally in September 2020, according to scientists from Copernicus. And the trend suggests temperatures will continue to rise over the next five years, maybe temporarily by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the WMO said in July.  Taalas said: "If we fail with climate mitigation, then we would see problems that are of a very different magnitude when it comes to human suffering and also economic losses." Source:CGTN Author:Reuters Date:October 13, 2021

2020-09 30
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President Xi's bold carbon neutral goal inspires climate change mitigation globally



Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, pledged to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 and also called for a global green revolution in the post-COVID era. This pledge has drawn much attention and also a diverse reaction. While the UN has praised China's ambitious commitment as a huge step for the entire world, many analysts have also expressed surprise over the announcement considering China, as one of the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide, had traditionally demanded for a more relaxed timetable on meeting its climate goals. Interestingly, China has achieved this year's emission target ahead of schedule, it was announced by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment just days after President Xi's UN address. To understand the significance of China's decision vis-a-vis global sustainable development targets and how practical it is for Beijing to achieve its carbon neutral goal, CGTN Digital's International Editor Abhishek G Bhaya spoke with Dr Fu Lu, China director of Clean Air Asia, an international NGO that promotes better air quality and healthier and livable cities. Fu is an expert in policy and regulation analysis of environmental issues, and has worked as project manager and coordinator with UN Environment Program in Thailand and leading environmental consulting firms in China. Edited excerpts: Bhaya: What was your initial reaction to President Xi Jinping's target of making China carbon neutral by 2060? Fu: A pleasant surprise the very first moment I heard about it. Then I realized that this is a really positive and inspiring news to climate change mitigation globally, China's future sustainable development, and also to air quality improvement, the area my organization focuses on. Bhaya: How practical and feasible it is for China to achieve this target? Fu: Since China made the last pledge in 2009 to the world, China has taken active actions reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieved the target for 2020 ahead of schedule. So China kept its promise. With the new target, first, it is bold in terms of using 30 years to go from carbon peak to carbon neutral. Compared with the paths developed countries have taken and pledge Europe has made, if China would achieve the carbon neutral target by 2060, it will be a remarkable achievement. I cannot answer if it is practical and feasible because such answer needs to rely on solid and detailed analysis. But at the same time, I am positive because of the significant air pollution reduction China has made since 2013. In the past 8 years, I've seen the establishment of a comprehensive policy framework, the accountability mechanisms, technology development and behind many measures, scientists' endeavor to refine the roadmap. No doubt that the new target will bring fundamental changes to China's society in terms of economic development model. Setting targets is the first step. I think the Chinese government will release more detailed policies and action plans later. Bhaya: As you noted, China has achieved the emission target for 2020 ahead of schedule. Will China be able to sustain this performance for the next two decades and beyond? Fu: I believe so. Environment protection has been highlighted as an important topic in President Xi's administration. In 2017, President Xi pledged to build a "beautiful China" with a clean environment by 2035. After the situation of coronavirus became under control in China, China government has emphasized on the importance of sticking to green development and high-quality development multiple times. Now with the carbon neutrality new pledge announced to the world, the long-term goal is crystal clear. Bhaya: How important is China's decision to be carbon neutral for driving global sustainable development? Fu: China is the largest CO2 emitter in the world, so China's carbon neutral pledge will contribute greatly to the world's fight against climate change. I've seen a few research analyses. One research shows that China's pledge may move the timeframe of global carbon neutral 10 years earlier. Two other research, one from an NGO in Europe, and the other from an MIT professor, predict that China's pledge can prevent 0.2 to 0.4 degree Celsius in global warming.   Bhaya: What are the likely challenges the global community, and China in particular, would face in achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and also the green revolution that President Xi refers to? How to overcome these challenges? Fu: For the global community, the challenge is how to build consensus and with consensus built, how to turn consensus into actions on the ground. I think that at the moment, the biggest challenge is building consensus. The first step to overcome the challenge is the attitudes of big polluters. Now with Europe and China having made the pledge, the world is waiting for other countries' response, especially countries with high GHGs emissions, such as US, Russia, India and Japan. To achieve the carbon neutrality by 2060 and green revolution in China, I think that the challenge is how to implement the top-level design at local level, and how to forge consensus in key affected sectors. Nevertheless, cities and sectors all need development. Announcing such a long-term target by 2060 is already an important first step in overcoming the challenge. Because it sends a clear signal to all stakeholders in China that China is serious in addressing climate change and green development is the ultimate goal. Then next steps are to develop roadmaps and timetables supported by phased action plans. The success of air quality improvement in Chinese cities since 2013 makes me confident that once clear targets are set, all stakeholders concerned would work together to make it happen. Both experience and lessons learnt from the clean air action plans implementation can be useful to overcoming the challenges with cities and sectors.  Bhaya: What role do you see for NGOs such as Clean Air Asia playing in making this goal a reality? Fu: NGOs in China have been working on climate change for many years. For us at Clean Air Asia, we are promoting and supporting policies and measures that can benefit both climate change mitigation and air quality improvement. As key emission sources of air pollution and climate change are the same, namely fossil fuel use, co-control measures can achieve co-benefits. With the new goal, NGOs will play an important role. I think the first thing is to help national and local policies development for the new target. Also, NGOs can help industries with low-carbon transition. Raising public awareness and improving public participation is another important thing NGOs can do. Bhaya: What are the likely contours of a global green revolution in the post-COVID era and what role will China play in this aspect? Fu: The pandemic has brought great challenges to all countries in the world. In the post-COVID era, I think that there are three common and important problems we are all facing, adapting to a new normality with COVID-19, climate change, and green economic recovery. The pandemic has, in a highly costly way, changed our views of past development model, and the world is still exploring new pathways. China's COVID19 situation has remained relatively steady since late June nationwide, with enterprises resuming production and people's daily life coming back to normal. Regular epidemic control has been adopted in people's daily life here in China. During the economic recovery process, China government has emphasized on the importance of sticking to green development and high-quality development. In July 2020, the national green development fund was created with 88.5 billion RMB for initial phase. I believe with the carbon neutral pledge, more policies and actions will come. I think that these can be valuable experience and lessons for other countries. Interviewer and script: Abhishek G Bhaya Video editors: Chen Shi Cover image: Li Jingjie Director: Mei Yan Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:September 30, 2021

2020-09 23
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Tackling global threats through solidarity and collaboration



Editor's note: James Rae is a professor from California State University Sacramento. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at Beijing Foreign Studies University from 2017 to 2018. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered remarks in New York City on the 75th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations. He addressed a wide variety of international issues while reiterating China's strong commitment to global governance, addressing common threats to humanity, and providing shared public goods. Throughout, his speech centered around the coronavirus disease pandemic and its relationship to these priorities.   For over five decades, China's pragmatic foreign policy has closely followed the prevailing rules of the international system. China is a founding member of the United Nations and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Since the People's Republic assumed that seat in the 1970s, China has tethered closely to the stated principles of the UN Charter in its respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.  President Xi reaffirmed this commitment in celebrating the UN birthday awhile centering the venerable institution as the core of international relations. The UN was created by the victors of World War II and its commemoration allows time to reminisce on the cooperation among the world's great powers of then and today, at that time a worldwide Anti-Fascist War that was central to the modern identity of China in resisting Japanese aggression.   Thus, China's modern history is intertwined with the formation of the United Nations and it closely follows its founding values. Indeed, even in Wu Jing's "Wolf Warrior" movies, authority to use force is always routed through the United Nations for its approval or confirmation. Despite Western skepticism of China's recent return to great power status, China has almost no history of foreign aggression and its traditional nature centered it's cosmology on its own civilization and domestic harmony.  In following this growing commitment to global governance, President Xi reaffirmed China's commitment to a host of multilateral efforts (while criticizing unilateralism), many of which are under threat and without mentioning by name, drew sharp contrast with the current policies of President Trump in the United States. Xi highlighted that China will support the global free trade regime and its central actor the World Trade Organization; implicit was the current American hostility to both, as Xi further condemned "beggar-thy-neighbor" protectionism and unilateralism.  Xi called for win-win cooperation that builds toward a community with a shared future for mankind, while denigrating the legacy of isolationism (which he said cannot work) and identified economic globalization as the future. Xi also described the challenge of climate change and the need uphold the Paris Accord in seeking to reach goals on carbon neutrality, which President Trump has withdrawn from and questioned.  He also sought inspiration in human diversity and dismissed claims of a clash of civilizations, a hypothesis that has been emanating from Western observers uncomfortable with the rise of power in the East, in Asia broadly and China specifically. President Xi also pledged to support peace, development, and equality in poor countries, noting various specific investments and proposals that would commit several billion dollars to the cause.   These interweaving juxtapositions throughout the speech highlighting China's commitment to global governance and contrasting with American efforts to pursue a zero-sum game of international politics were particularly powerful. On the one hand, it undermines typical American critiques of China not being a "responsible stakeholder," that pursues its own national self-interest and bilateral negotiations from positions of strength, while exposing the hypocrisy of American behavior. On the other hand, it positions China to be the engine for fortifying the mission of the United Nations to promote international peace and development through respectful win-win plans.   The audience in this sense are the dozens and dozens of developing countries that see in China a non-Western society that experienced similar challenges of overcoming the legacy of colonialism and foreign intervention and an often unfair and exploitative global trading system. They will be warmed by China's pledges to pursue goals of sustainable development through multilateral mechanisms. They are also likely to be the recipients of China's commitment to defeat the virus for the cause of humanity.  As we are now in a position to worry less about blaming countries for its origins but instead to be pursuing strategies to contain and eradicate the virus, President Xi described how Chinese scientists and researchers were entering Phase 3 clinical trials toward a reliable vaccine, that he would consider such a vaccine a global public good, and would provide it to developing countries.  Indeed, his framing of a post-COVID time was immensely heartening, and the successful containment strategies across East Asia already offer a glimmer of hope; the next step is a safe and effective vaccine. The United Nations and its affiliated agencies will remain at the center of such efforts for the best hopes to "make swords into plowshares" as inscribed at the UN headquarters and tackle global threats and pandemics through a spirit of solidarity, mutual respect, and collaboration.   Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:September 23, 2020

2020-08 31
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China denounces Pompeo's smear on its environmental protection record



The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday slammed American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for remarks that cast doubt on China's environmental protection efforts and said he should ask himself why the U.S. quit the Paris Agreement on climate change. China highly values environmental protection and has achieved remarkable results in promoting green and sustainable development, especially in the control of air, water and soil pollution, said spokesperson Zhao Lijian. Globally, China actively contributes to international environmental protection and performs its duties in treaties such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement and the Basel Convention, he continued. By 2018, China had slashed carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP, by 45.8 percent from 2005 levels. The figure can be translated to 5.26 billion fewer tons of carbon dioxide emitted since 2005, said Zhao.  China also attaches great importance to the environmental impact of plastic waste. As early as 2008, China implemented the "plastic limit order" to reduce "white pollution" and vigorously promoted the recycling of waste plastics. By the end of 2019, the harmless treatment rate of urban domestic waste across the country was close to 99 percent, he noted. However, Zhao said that the U.S., as the country that produces the most CO2 in the world, hasn't ratified the Kyoto Protocol, withdrew from the Paris Agreement, and completely separates itself from the global carbon emission system and arrangements, seriously hindering the process of global emission reduction and promotion of green and low-carbon development. "Meanwhile, as the world's largest exporter of solid waste and a major consumer of plastic, the United States doesn't ratify the Basel Convention, and set up obstacles to the global plastic waste management process, and transferred a large amount of waste to developing countries. The move has brought great harm to the local and global environment. I think everyone can see clearly who is wantonly disregarding the global environment and global people's health," Zhao said. Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:August 31, 2020