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China’s climate commitment: How significant is it for the planet, and India?

  • 03 October, 2020

  • 8 Min Read

China’s climate commitment: How significant is it for the planet, and India?


  • China’s President Xi Jinping has promised that the country would be carbon net-zero by 2060, and has advanced the deadline for reaching emissions peak.

What has China announced?

  • Xi announced that China would be carbon net-zero by 2060.
  • Net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests.
  • Removal involves the application of technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

Why is net-zero an important target?

  • Scientists say that the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times is achieving global carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • For a long time, there have been campaigns and efforts to get countries (especially the big emitters) to commit themselves to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
  • Sometimes referred to as the state of net-zero emissions, it would require countries to significantly reduce their emissions while increasing land or forest sinks that would absorb the emissions that take place.
  • If the sinks are not adequate, countries can commit themselves to deploying (expensive) technologies that physically remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

How significant is China’s commitment?

  • China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
  • It accounts for almost 30% of global emissions, more than the combined emissions in the United States, the European Union and India, the three next biggest emitters.
  • The climate actions of China, the US, the European Union and India are crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement targets, who together account for more than half the global emissions, followed by countries such as Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Japan and Australia.
  • Getting China to commit itself to a net-zero target is a big breakthrough, since countries have been reluctant to pledge themselves to such long term commitments.
  • The United States has walked out of the Paris Agreement.
  • The Chinese goal, if realised, would lower global warming projections for 2100 by about 0.2° to 0.3°C, the most impactful single action ever taken by any country.

What are the implications of China’s commitment for India?

  • India has resisted pressure to make a long-term commitment, citing the fact that developed countries had utterly failed in keeping their past promises.
  • India has also been arguing that the climate change actions it has been taking are, in relative terms, far more robust than those of the developed countries.
  • Climate Action Tracker puts India’s actions as “2°C compatible”, while the US, China and even the European Union’s current efforts are classified as “insufficient”.
  • Of the pledges that have been made in the Paris Agreement, India is the only G20 country whose actions are on track to meet the 2° goal.
  • The Chinese announcement is naturally expected to increase pressure on India to follow suit.
  • Another side-effect of the Chinese decision could be an increased divergence in the positions of India and China at the climate negotiations. China would now have fewer grounds to align itself with India as a developing country.


Source: IE


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