Greening China spells Asia gains
Low-carbon growth model can speed up clean energy shift in region, experts say
China's pursuit of low-carbon economic growth can influence other Asian countries to follow the same path, helping the global fight against climate change, experts said.
Premier Li Keqiang, who delivered the Government Work Report at the opening of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing this month, said China will continue to target peak carbon emissions, develop green and low-carbon technologies and curb projects that produce large carbon emissions.
Environmental experts said China's leadership is much needed as increased heat waves, droughts and floods caused by climate change have killed millions worldwide and remain a global threat. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report that these extreme weather events are "occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage" and have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity.
"There is no better time than now (for China) to lead the charge toward low-carbon development, especially with the recent release of the latest IPCC report which highlights the need for governments to act with urgency and ambition to mitigate emissions as well as to put in place encompassing adaptation measures," said Cesar Carlito Baclagon, regional finance campaigner of 350.org, an international environmental group.
Baclagon applauded China's aim of working toward carbon neutrality and said he hoped this will jump-start the transition to renewable energy sources, increase climate adaptation funds and usher in low-carbon development in Asia.
John Wang, vice-president and senior analyst for environmental, social and corporate governance at Moody's Investors Service, said: "China's continued effort to drive green development and decarbonization will benefit other Asian economies and support their low-carbon growth."
Xie Chunping, policy fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said China is at the forefront of the development of new low-carbon technologies and its transformation into a low-carbon economy will likely set an example for other countries.
China has announced that it would aim to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
To meet these goals, China has shuttered a number of high-polluting and high energy-consuming factories, promoted the development of high-tech industries and encouraged the use of electric vehicles. This policy has reduced both energy intensity and the use of coal as a fuel source in China. Energy intensity dropped 28.7 percent in 2020 compared with 2011, while the proportion of coal in total energy consumption fell from 69.2 percent in 2010 to 56.8 percent in 2020, according to Xinhua News Agency.
The International Energy Agency said China is a "clean energy powerhouse" and has made "notable progress" in its clean energy transition. China leads the global growth in electric car markets, with sales nearly tripling to 3.4 million units in 2021. Renewable energy capacity has also increased. Installed capacity of wind and solar energy reached about 540 gigawatts in 2020. China invested about $130 billion in clean energy technology in 2020.
Xie said China's investment in its low-carbon transition could drive down the cost of clean technology further and lead to a positive spillover effect in other countries.
This is already happening in the case of solar energy. The IEA said that most solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were manufactured in China. China is also the global manufacturing hub of other clean energy technologies－accounting for over 70 percent of global battery manufacturing capacity and nearly 80 percent of PV cells.
"(China) could have a great deal to gain by being in the vanguard of the new global growth story driven by the stimulus of higher investment in renewables and energy efficiency,"Xie said.