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China’s Carbon Neutral Promise Includes All GHGs, Not Just Carbon Dioxide

China’s recent blockbuster commitment to hit carbon neutrality by 2060 applies to all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide, a top climate scientist clarified earlier this week.

“When President Xi Jinping told the United Nations about China’s new target last month, he didn’t specify if China would target just carbon dioxide—the most prevalent greenhouse gas—or others that also contribute to global warming such as methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide,” writes Bloomberg Green. “He also didn’t detail how China planned to achieve the target, though the government is expected to lay out some of those measures in its upcoming five-year plan for 2021 to 2025.”

But He Jiankun, academic committee chair at Tsinghua University’s Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development (ICCSD), filled in details of China’s carbon-neutral roadmap during a conference presentation Monday. He said the five-year plan will set out to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 14%, increase non-fossil energy to 20% of total consumption by 2025, five years ahead of the country’s previous schedule, and reduce carbon dioxide intensity by up to 20%.

“In line with the target, China should announce more ambitious contributions to the Paris climate accord, including reducing its carbon intensity by more than 65% from 2005 levels and aiming for a higher share of non-fossil fuel energy sources by 2030,” Bloomberg reports, citing He. “However, researchers at the conference laid out scenarios that showed even that plan wouldn’t put China on the path to keeping global warming within 2.0°C from pre-industrial levels, so China would have to scale up targets even more after 2030.”

When the government-affiliated ICCSD first released the roadmap in late September, Bloomberg Green called it “the most ambitious climate goal the world’s ever seen”. It showed solar capacity growing by 587%, nuclear by 382%, wind by 346%, bioenergy by 100%, and hydropower by 50% by 2060. Coal consumption is to fall by 96%, gas by 75%, and oil by 65%.

“While this proposal might get China to carbon neutrality by 2060, it would be better for the economy and the environment if emissions would decline more rapidly,” ClientEarth China representative Dimitri de Boer said at the time. “China has an opportunity now to boost the strategic sectors of the future, such as renewable energy, hydrogen, electric vehicles, green buildings, and smart grids.”