The Big Picture: Hidden Signposts in China's Climate Plans

Copyright © 2021 Energy Intelligence Group

• China has yet to unveil policy details to meet ambitious climate pledges announced nearly a year ago. • A raft of new coal plants and mines is also raising eyebrows about China's climate commitment. • But where China applies itself, progress can be swift, and sometimes headline grabbing, as with its electric vehicle (EV) rollout, and sometimes not, as with heavy industry's early deadlines for peak emissions. The lack of clear signposts, together with reports of additional domestic coal power plants and coal mines expansions being approved, are making observers jittery about China's ability to hit targets to peak its carbon emissions before 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2060 (EC Jan.8'21). Without China -- the world’s single largest carbon emitter -- at the forefront of the battle to reduce carbon emissions, the war against climate change will likely be lost. And with climate change a rare area of possible cooperation, a failure to deliver would also further erode the increasingly fraught relationship between the West and China (EC Feb.5'21). But the absence of a master plan may not be a major stumbling block at this stage: Since President Xi Jinping’s green revolution announcement last year, cities, state companies and provinces have tried to outdo each other in the race to limit carbon emissions to please the Chinese leadership. Shanghai, for instance, plans to cap its carbon emissions by 2025, five years ahead of the target. State-run oil companies PetroChina and Sinopec also plan to peak their carbon emissions ahead of the national plan, as does heavy industry. The world's top steelmaker, state-owned Baowu, in January announced it was targeting peak carbon emissions in 2023, two years ahead of a separate (and earlier) 2025 deadline set by Beijing for the sector. State utilities are likewise eyeing 2023 and 2025 carbon peaking timetables (WEO May7'21). Top-Down Plan Expected in September

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