Nov 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

China's challenging path to become "carbon neutral" by 2060

The Bao Steel mill in the morning, in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China.

The Bao Steel mill in the morning, in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China. Photo: Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images

A new(ish) International Energy Agency analysis outlines the importance — and immense challenge — of China's pledge to become "carbon neutral" by 2060.

Why it matters: Its recommendations get to the scope of the tech deployment needed, and what a seismic shift it would represent for China's economy.

  • "Achieving this goal of net-zero emissions would represent a milestone in modern Chinese history comparable to 1949," write IEA chief economist Laszlo Varro and An Fengquan, a senior adviser.
  • "To do so, would require China to quickly embark on an ambitious multi-decade effort to transform its economy, as it did after 1978."

The big picture: The IEA says there are steep cuts needed to meet the pledge.

  • Contributions of three broad technology categories — renewables, efficiency, and a bucket combining nuclear power, carbon capture and more — are needed to show the reductions.

Threat level: The piece not only describes the need to accelerate transformation of China's coal-heavy power sector, but also its huge heavy manufacturing industries, where the need for very high-temperature processes make it hard to replace fossil fuels.

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