Can China be the key to climate solutions?

Can China be the key to climate solutions? The share size of China’s greenhouse gas emissions suggests they have to, and there are signs that they will be make the most important contributions to curbing climate change.

China became to biggest emitter of greenhouse gases ahead of the US in 2006. It is expected that they soon will release twice as much as Obama’s superpower and count for more than 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The fantastic economic performance in China the past decade has unfortunately come at the expense of the environment.

Part of the solution
China has been accused by the West to be a real slow down in the climate negotiations. China has insisted that the US and Europe have to pay for the historic emissions and help poor countries invest in renewable energy and climate adaptation.

There are however clear signs that the country has changed course and takes a more aggressive approach. China are now taking more responsibility, both domestically and abroad.

China’s authoritarian government introduced a national climate programme in 2007. Last year the US and China signed a climate agreement, which is very important no matter how symbolic it is.

In September this year China announced that they will launch an emissions trading program from 2017, which the US has yet to do. The same month the Chinese also announced that they would give USD 3.1 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which is actually more than what Obama has promised to give, and that is not yet approved by Congress.


Gobi desert solar farm May 2015 Photo: NASA


Gobi desert solar farm 2012 Photo: NASA

Renewable revolution
In 2014, China invested USD 83 billion in renewable energy – one third of the world’s total investments.

Plans are underway for China’s first large-scale commercial solar plant. It will be the world’s largest solar plant, designed to eventually supply electricity for approximately one million households in Qinghai province.

It’s a concentrating solar power (CSP) system, which uses a vast array of mirrors spread across 2,550 hectares (6,300 acres) in the Gobi desert to send thermal energy into a small, focused area.

Currently, 11% of Chinas energy comes from renewable sources. Coal still counts 64%, though down from 66% in 2013. However, investments like giga-solar-plant in the Gobi desert will help them towards the goal of at least 20% renewable by 2030.

Beat expectations
Is China going to reach it goal? We have seen numerous examples of western countries that make climate targets, which they fail to deliver. This is possibly why China has been slow in the climate negotiations as they do not want to sign any agreement they are not confident they will not achieve.

The hope is therefore that they not only will achieve their climate goals, but actually supersede them. China’s goal to reach emissions top by 2030 is currently on track to be achieved by 2025.

If that is the case and China also beat their renewable energy target the country seen as a drag may very well become the key to climate solutions.

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