China props itself to the improbable challenge of achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2060

By the time China is done achieving its goals, it would be too late to truly salvage the environment.

China has set an incredulous goal of bringing its carbon emissions to a complete naught and invest heavily into renewable sources of energy as Jinping promises to turn China completely carbon neutral by 2060.

The challenges that lie ahead for China in rapidly reducing its carbon footprint goes beyond amassing massive investment and heavy borrowing, as post recovery from the pandemic, Jinping has shifted focus on increasing industrial manufacturing.

China has one crucial challenge to surmount, which is its heavy dependency on fossil fuels to run its multiple coal-based industries.

For instance, China is responsible for a 29% share of global greenhouse emissions, a statistic that has only been increasing and is almost double of what US emits and thrice of what European Union does.

In fact, US and Europe have been successfully cutting down their carbon footprint and is down to 16% and 22% respectively.

Another immediate challenge is Jinping’s drive to rapidly increase GDP growth which directly pushes industries dependent on energy from fossil fuels to consume even more energy that increases demand for coal.

Offering an immediate alternative to coal is difficult for China, as rapid industrial growth and an aim to realize carbon neutrality cannot go hand in hand.

There needs to be compromise. 

China also does not fully understand the ramifications of a short term goal to boost economic growth that relies heavily on coal based industries.

Emissions such as carbon dioxide impair the atmosphere for centuries, and a call to increase industrial output goes directly against the objectives of attaining actual carbon neutrality.

By the time China is done achieving its goals, it would be too late to truly salvage the environment.

There is then the challenge of tackling the possible backlash from the massive workforce that runs China’s factories.

A renewables based industrial sector would not require similar inputs as that of a coal-based factory, which would increase the need for up-skilling workers and completely dismantling the existing factories. 

Additionally to achieve carbon neutrality, China would have to accumulate and extract ‘rare earths’, the components used to build green and renewable sources of energy, and China is home to the world’s 80% rare earths mined.

This gives China a significant geopolitical edge when it comes to harnessing renewable energy and would be highly reluctant to export sources of renewables to other countries that it directly competes with. 

Furthermore to sustain the promise to accomplish carbon neutrality by 2060, China will require a steady flow of investments.

Currently Jinping’s government is yet to even lay a detailed structure or a plan of how it aims to bring carbon emissions to zero in the next 40 years.

Interestingly China’s 2060 timeline despite being unrealistic in the absence of a concrete timeline, gives it political flexibility as 2060 seems to have been purposefully chosen.

China targets to build a modern prosperous socialist country with attributes of democratic and cultural values by 2049.

If the government fails to achieve the 2049 goal, the risk of backlash stands mitigated as the CCP would have the 2060 carbon neutrality goal to fall back on.