How China could peak CO2 emissions by 2022

Detailed policy proposals by influential Chinese and US researchers show potential to speed up low carbon shift

(Pic: Joe Hunt/Flickr)


China could speed up its climate plans to peak carbon dioxide emissions in six years, under proposals presented to policymakers this week.

Two Beijing-based government advisory groups – the National Center for Climate Change and International Cooperation and the Energy Research Institute – drew up an “accelerated low carbon scenario” with American consultancy Energy Innovation.

It would see coal’s share of primary energy use fall to 47% in 2030 (down from 64% in 2015), and non fossil fuel sources rise to 22%.

Based on analysis of some 10,000 policy combinations, the report offers details on how to transform key sectors.

“There have been questions about how these recommendations can translate into specific actions for the next five year plan,” Sonia Aggarwal of Energy Innovation told Climate Home by phone from the Chinese capital. “That is very encouraging.”

China's future CO2 emission scenarios (Source: NCSC/EI/ERI report)

China’s future CO2 emission scenarios (Source: NCSC/EI/ERI report)

The recommendations go beyond China’s commitment to halt and start to reverse CO2 emission rates by 2030 – the “low carbon” line on the graph above.

For context, the analysts also sketch out a scenario under which emissions start declining immediately, based on a combination of the strongest policies seen worldwide.

That puts a theoretical upper limit on ambition, explained Aggarwal: “No country in the world has adopted all of those policies at the highest setting.”

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Carbon pricing is “the single strongest policy available”, the report states, although Aggarwal emphasises it is not enough on its own.

Renewable electricity targets and efficiency standards for cars, appliances and buildings are also critical, as is an economic restructuring away from heavy industry into service sectors.

Beijing is preparing to open a nationwide carbon market next year, building on seven regional pilots.

Today, prices range from 10-40RMB a tonne (US$2-6/t). On the fast-track green pathway, researchers see this rising to 252RMB ($38) by 2030.

To make it more effective, policymakers should avoid handing out free pollution permits and apply pricing widely, they recommend.

Read more on: China