China aims at long-term strategy to deal with climate change
Alok Gupta

In a bid to prepare a long-term roadmap to decarbonize the economy, a Chinese translation of the European Union’s (EU) climate action plan was released in Beijing on Monday.

Countries would have to reduce their emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050 to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement. In order to achieve the target, the EU took the lead last year by unveiling an ambitious strategy, to become the world’s first zero-emission economy by 2050.

However, a large number of countries found it difficult to prepare a similar strategy spanning over three decades. 

"At present, China doesn’t have any long-term policy to become carbon neutral in the next 30 years," said Li Zheng, executive vice-president of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University. “We are still developing the strategy for 2030-2035. Under such circumstances, the EU’s climate policy would help us understand the procedures,” he added. 

But China's short-term policies have worked well, and the country already met the carbon emission target for 2020 around three years early, positioning itself as one of the major climate leaders.  

Experts believe that the launch of the carbon emission trading scheme (ETS) – an improved version of the EU ETS­­ – was one of the major contributing factors behind achieving the target early. 

"China-EU is jointly working together towards a smooth transition to a clean economy. The Chinese version of our action plan would further strengthen this collaboration," said Timothy Harrington, deputy head of the EU delegation to China.

The entire EU climate action plan aims at reducing emissions from industries, power plants, transport and even agriculture to restrict the global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius, a recommendation made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year.  

The translated version of the plan, launched in book format in Beijing, will give China food for thought for carbon reduction by 2050, He Jiankum, chairman of the academic committee at Tsinghua's Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development said at the launch.  "It would also help in developing a systematic research model to curb emissions," he added.

High hopes from China

With the Climate Action Summit in New York a few weeks away and the Global Climate Change Summit due to be held at Santiago, Chile in December, a large number of countries are pinning hopes on China to announce an enhanced Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) to decarbonize the economy.

Expectations are running high as the U.S pulled out of the climate change agreement, Brazil refused to host this year’s Climate Change Summit and Saudi Arabia has decided to oppose any commitment made to restrict a global temperature rise within 1.5 degree Celsius.  

Artur Runge-Metzger, director of climate strategy, governance and emissions from non-trading sectors at the European Commission, pointed out that decisive actions are needed and China’s role would be crucial to reining in global emissions.

"In the coming years, agriculture would suffer one of the worst impacts due to the rising temperature in the EU region, with agriculture yields declining by 30-40 percent. Other countries are already facing the consequences of climate change," he warned.