Climate change has been an ongoing global health concern for quite a long time. It will eventually affect us all if human beings don't take it seriously and change the way we operate.
Like all nations that have signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement, China is also obliged to submit its emission reduction targets. The country vows to bring its carbon emissions to a peak no later than 2030 and become carbon-neutral before 2060. President Xi Jinping made such commitments on behalf of China on Sept. 22, 2020 via video while addressing the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly. According to reports, most developed countries reached their carbon neutrality peaks in the 2000s and aim to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.
In the simplest terms, carbon neutrality means realizing net-zero carbon dioxide emission, which means that for every amount of carbon a country or company produces, it should take steps to remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere to achieve carbon neutrality.
Carbon neutrality is regarded as a painful and costly green revolution for China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide at present. If China wants to achieve these targets, a massive ramp-up of renewable electricity generation is needed over the next 40 years, including a big increase in solar, wind, nuclear, photovoltaic and hydroelectric power to replace coal-fired power.
However, shifting China's economy away from its dependence on traditional fossil fuels in a short time is very expensive. It is reported that China needs to invest more than 100 trillion yuan (US$15.56 trillion) – almost the country's entire GDP in 2020 – to effectively remove carbon from its energy supply in the coming three decades. Coal-fired power is still the major energy source in China and now accounts for almost 65 percent of the country's electricity generation with more than 200 new coal-fired stations planned or under construction. Therefore such a transition will surely bring about tremendous opposition from related industries.
Facing daunting challenges ahead, China is not simply paying lip service to global environmental concerns. The country has already embraced the notions of ecological civilization and green development. The recent Central Economic Work Conference also called for accelerated efforts to better the industry and energy structures and enable the peaking of coal consumption at an early date while bolstering the development of new and eco-friendly energy.
Energy efficiency and emission reduction are key to achieving carbon neutrality. For instance, as the biggest automobile market worldwide, China is taking a technologically open-minded approach to explore innovative technologies for green mobility such as electric and fuel-cell vehicles. That's the main reason why Tesla and other homemade electric cars have been witnessing rapid development in China in recent years.
Actually, climate change calls for changes not only in the mobility sector, but also in all other industries such as building, transport, agriculture and even daily consumption. For example, in the consumer sector, products are becoming increasingly energy-efficient, especially heaters and other home appliances. In manufacturing, production lines are being upgraded so they are smarter and more energy-efficient.
Carbon neutrality is a serious issue that requires attention from government bodies, organizations and companies. But that does not mean that, as individuals, we cannot do anything to offer help. Frankly speaking, there are many things people can do to lower carbon emissions and push for stronger public awareness of climate issues, such as driving less, planting our own vegetables, using cold water when washing clothes, promoting afforestation programs and of course, reusing and recycling whenever possible.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)