80% renewable energy and carbon neutrality by 2060?

China plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, replacing fossil fuels to reach 80% “clean” energy.

China’s forced industrialization has dramatically changed the face of the planet in recent decades. A dynamic that has allowed the “factory of the world” to explode economically, but also in its ecological impact. However, the country seems determined to reverse the trend; its president Xi Jinping recently pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

An announcement that seems extremely ambitious. According to the latest surveys from the Global Carbon Atlas, the country still dominates the ranking of global carbon emissions, far ahead of the United States, India and Russia In 2019, the country emitted even more 10,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

It is primarily a form of obligation since China ratified the Paris Agreements in 2017. In doing so, it has undertaken to limit global warming to less than 2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era. It therefore has no choice but to take responsibility for its decision and show that it is giving itself the means to achieve this objective.

An entire model to rebuild

To achieve this goal, the Chinese government wishes limit to 20% maximum the share of non-renewable energies, and reach 80% clean energy. However, he did not communicate a precise roadmap; we can imagine that this will start by reducing the number of coal-fired power stations. Indeed, this particularly polluting energy source still provides more than two thirds of Chinese energy. Beijing will therefore necessarily have to replace them.

For this, several candidates exist. It could be renewable energies, in which China paradoxically has recognized expertise. In the future, we could therefore see facilities such as solar farms, tidal power stations or gigantic offshore wind turbines flourish. The other option is nuclear power plants, which do not emit greenhouse gases.

If we can obviously be satisfied with these commitments on the part of the government; whether they are achieved or not, they can only push China in the right direction, which would in any case be a victory for the whole planet on the ecological level. But without giving in to the most absolute cynicism, there is also a second reading of the situation, not necessarily incompatible with environmental objectives.

Ecology as a geopolitical Trojan horse?

Since taking office as President, Xi Jinping has worked tirelessly to make China a superpower cut out for world leadership. To get as close as possible to this coveted status, the country’s diplomacy never misses an opportunity to claim its avant-garde. And knowing Xi Jinping’s way of doing things, the climate crisis might just be the perfect Trojan horse.

The leader could thus kill two birds with one stone. If it does succeed in achieving this goal, China will first remove a big thorn in its side; it will then be able to continue its unbridled economic growth without hindrance. This is excellent news for a whole section of its industry, especially with regard to electric vehicles.

But at the same time, she could also build a beautiful story of redemption as the country loves it. It would thus shed the status of “ugly environmental duckling” in front of the whole world to put on another much more prestigious cape, that of champion of ecology. A way of presenting itself as a pragmatic nation, quick to act, turned towards the future … and incidentally much better placed to teach lessons, in particular to its best American enemy.

There will also be the question of China’s partners. The country is known for its massive investments in developing countries, especially at the industrial level. But last September, Xi Jinping promised to stop building coal-fired power plants abroad. An expected statement, but which some experts nevertheless doubt. It will therefore be necessary to follow China’s ecological transition with particular attention. Because this could change things well beyond the atmospheric carbon rate in Beijing!

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