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Peak Carbon and Carbon Neutrality: An Extensive and Profound Transformation

Source: Xi Jinping The Governance of China IV Updated: 2023-09-13

Peak Carbon and Carbon Neutrality: An Extensive and Profound Transformation*

January 24, 2022

Achieving the goals of peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 is essential to the new development philosophy. It is key to building a new development dynamic and promoting high-quality development; it represents a strategic decision the Party Central Committee has made by taking into account the situation both at home and abroad. We must conduct an in-depth analysis of the challenges and the tasks and fully understand the urgency and arduous nature of the work. We need to define priorities, make sure that they are understood by all, and ensure effective implementation of the decisions and plans of the Party Central Committee.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Central Committee has put the new development philosophy in action, pursuing green and low-carbon development that prioritizes environmental protection. Marked progress has been made in powering the transition towards a green economy and society. We have established a sound economic structure that facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development, adjusted the structure of industry and energy, launched the national carbon trading market, announced a halt to new coal-fired power plants overseas, accelerated the creation of a policy framework for peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality, and actively participated in international negotiations on climate change. 

All these efforts have demonstrated China’s sense of responsibility as a major country. 

We pursue the goals of peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality not under compulsion but of our own accord. As we have entered a new stage of development, there is a serious need to achieve these goals, which will help to ease constraints imposed by resources and the environment and realize sustainable development. We must embrace technological advances, promote transformation and upgrading of the economic structure, meet the people’s growing expectation for a beautiful eco-environment, and promote harmony between humanity and nature. All of this derives from the need to take on our responsibility as a major country and build a global community of shared future.

In short, we must fully understand the importance of peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality, and increase our confidence in meeting these goals. 

Realizing these two goals is an extensive and profound transformation; it will not be an easy task. We must improve our capacity for strategic thinking, apply systems thinking from beginning to end, and properly deal with four relationships.

First, development and emissions reduction. Cutting emissions does not mean decreasing industrial activity, or zero emissions. Rather, it is a commitment to green and low-carbon development which prioritizes eco-environmental conservation and drives a green transition with booming economic development. We need to make sound plans for cutting carbon dioxide emissions while ensuring energy security, food security, industrial and supply chain security, and the normal life of the people. 

Second, the whole and the part. On the one hand, we must make concerted efforts across the country to ensure synergy generated by greater integration and coordination of policies and measures. On the other hand, we need to do research and determine the correct way to adjust the industrial structure of different regions and build action plans for peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality based on a full consideration of the regional distribution of resources and industrial specialization rather than imposing uniform requirements.

Third, long-term goals and short-term objectives. We must stay grounded in today’s realities and address each specific problem until small victories add up into big ones. We also need to think in the long term. Instead of pursuing quick success and instant benefits, we should get the pace and intensity right in cutting carbon emissions, and work towards the goal with a pragmatic and progressive approach.

Fourth, the government and the market. We should lay equal emphasis on both to better leverage the role of a well-functioning government and an efficient market, and put in place sound incentive and restraint mechanisms.

All in all, this work requires us to pool strengths across the country, prioritize conservation, leverage the role of the government and the market, coordinate efforts on the domestic and international fronts, and guard against risks. We must make better use of our institutional strengths, rich resources, potential in technology, and market vitality, and we must move faster to build an industrial structure, production model, way of life, and spatial configuration that are resource-sparing and environment-friendly.

First, strengthening overall planning and coordination. Achieving peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality will be integrated into the overall plans for promoting eco-environmental progress and economic and social development. Reducing carbon emissions and mitigating pollution should operate in parallel with expanding green transition and promoting economic growth. We will speed up the rollout of relevant plans, initiatives, and support measures; we will implement 10 actions for achieving peak carbon dioxide emissions and strengthen policy coordination. Local authorities and central departments should maintain the broadest perspective, set the right pace for peak carbon, and clarify responsibilities, tasks and deadlines while advancing the work in a steady and orderly manner.

Second, advancing the energy revolution. Taking into account the energy-resource endowment of our country, we will introduce overall planning and adopt the method of establishing the new before abolishing the old – safe and reliable new energy must be secured in the first place before traditional energy is phased out. 

We will step up efforts to build a new energy supply and accommodation system based on large wind and photovoltaic (PV) power plants, supported by clean, efficient, advanced, and energy-saving coal power stations in areas surrounding those plants, and carried by steady, safe, and reliable UHV transmission and transformation lines. 

We will resolutely control consumption of fossil fuels – particularly coal – by reducing coal use and replacing it with alternative energy resources in an orderly manner. We will upgrade coal-fired power plants to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions, and make them more flexible in operation and more efficient for heating. 

We will strengthen the foundations for domestic energy production, ensure coal supply security, maintain the stable growth of production capacity of crude oil and natural gas, increase the reserve capacity of coal, gas and oil, and promote large-scale application of advanced energy storage technology. 

We will give higher priority to new energy and clean energy, and work for the active and orderly development of energy from such sources as light, silicon, hydrogen, and other types of renewable energy. We need to promote deeper integration of energy technology with modern information, new materials, and advanced manufacturing technologies, and explore new approaches to energy production and consumption. We will increase the scale and accelerate the profitable development of new energy such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, ocean and hydrogen. We will coordinate hydropower development and eco-environmental protection, and develop nuclear power in a safe and orderly manner. 

Third, pushing for industrial upgrading and optimization. We must seize the opportunities presented by a new revolution in science, technology and industry, promote further integration of green and low-carbon industries with emerging technologies such as the internet, big data, artificial intelligence, and 5G, build green manufacturing and service systems, and increase the proportion of green and low-carbon industries in the economy.

We should impose strict control over the carbon emissions of new projects, and resolutely curb the blind development of energy-intensive projects with high emissions and outdated technology. We will work hard to upgrade traditional industries such as steel, nonferrous metals, petrochemicals, chemicals, and building materials, and accelerate the pace of low-carbon technology innovation and the digital transformation of industry. We will make greater efforts to turn waste into resources, boost the circular economy, and reduce waste in the use of energy and resources.

We will coordinate efforts to build a low-carbon transport system and facilitate quality low-carbon development in both urban and rural areas. Integrated conservation and management of mountain, river, forest, farmland, lake, grassland and desert ecosystems will consolidate and increase the carbon sink capacity of the environment. 

We will advocate a healthy lifestyle that is simple, moderate, green, and low-carbon, encourage green and low-carbon consumption, promote the use of green transport services, launch green action plans and pilot programs targeting a low-carbon society, and increase the public awareness of conservation and eco-environmental protection. 

Fourth, speeding up the green and low-carbon scientific and technological revolution. We will do everything within our capacity to make breakthroughs in green technologies and accelerate R&D and application of advanced and applicable technologies. We will set up a sound system for green and low-carbon technology assessment and trading to speed up the application of innovation results. We will apply new approaches to the training of professionals and encourage universities and colleges to accelerate the development of relevant disciplines.

Fifth, improving green and low-carbon policies. We will further improve the system for dual control over the volume and intensity of energy use. Consumption of newly added renewable energy and raw material energy is not to be included in the control of total energy use. 

We will improve standards for peak carbon and carbon neutrality, build a unified and standardized calculation system for carbon emissions, and transition from dual control over the volume and intensity of energy use to dual control over the volume and intensity of carbon emissions.

We will improve laws and regulations, and fiscal, tax, price, investment and financial policies. We need to expand the capacity of the market, improve the carbon pricing mechanism, and increase coordination between trading in carbon emissions rights, trading in energy use permits, and electricity trading.

Sixth, actively participating in global climate governance and steering its course. Committed to the vision of a global community of shared future, we will participate more actively in setting the agenda of global climate negotiations and the formulation of international rules, to help build a fair and rational global climate governance system directed towards cooperation and win-win results.

We must strengthen the Party’s leadership over the work towards peak carbon and carbon neutrality. We should intensify overall planning and coordination, exercise strict supervision and assessment, and form synergy at work. Both the Party and the government should assume responsibilities and play their part. Carbon assessment indicators will be a part of the comprehensive evaluation system for regional economic and social development, and more weight will be given to these assessments in order to strengthen the binding effect of indicators. Leading officials at all levels must devote more time to the study of the basics, approaches, and requirements for this work, so that they can achieve a better understanding and apply what they have learned in practice properly. This should be an important part of the training for officials, so that they become better equipped to lead in green and low-carbon development.

* Main points of the speech at the 36th group study session of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee.

(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)