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BRUSSELS — China’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2060 can be accomplished at an earlier date if Beijing steps up the adoption of renewable power and cuts use of coal, the International Energy Agency said in a report released Wednesday.
“China has the means and capabilities to accomplish an even faster clean energy transition,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a news release.
China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for a third of all emissions of the greenhouse gas, according to the IEA. President Xi Jinping declared last year that Chinese carbon output would reach its peak by the end of this decade, enabling the country to attain net-zero emissions by 2060.
For China to attain those goals, according to the IEA report, the country would need to improve its energy efficiency, greatly expand the use of renewable energy and reduce its dependence on coal.
Challenges lie ahead. More than 60% of China’s power generation is derived from coal. The nation would have to reverse course and make renewable energy account for nearly 80% of its electric power generation by 2060, meaning green power would need to multiply sevenfold compared to last year.
Emissions from the industrial sector would have to shrink by 95%. A pivot to hydrogen as well as to carbon capture and storage would be instrumental, the IEA said.
To meet its climate goal, China’s annual investment will come to $640 billion in 2030, rising to $900 billion in 2060.
“The level of investment required for China to achieve its goals is well within its financial means,” the IEA report says.
But the report explored ways that China could accelerate the drive to carbon neutrality.
The energy sector could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% compared to current levels in 2030, the report noted.
“This accelerated transition would put China’s CO2 emissions into marked decline after 2025, opening up the possibility of China reaching carbon neutrality well before 2060,” said Birol.
The United Nations’ COP26 climate summit is slated to take place from the end of October through early November in Glasgow, Scotland. In the run-up, developed nations have been busy lobbying China and other developing nations to further pare down carbon emissions.
Japan, the United States and the European Union have all declared bold carbon reduction goals for the years 2030 and 2050. However, developed nations only produce about 40% of all emissions.
Participation by the emerging world will be essential for meeting the Paris climate accord targets, with developed nations primed to intensify their pressure on China.