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China to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060

2020-11-11 at 8:23 Timo Löyttyniemi

The most important piece of news this autumn was China’s pledge that the country would become carbon neutral by 2060. While it may not have come as a surprise, the declaration will have major implications on world politics, international investments and hopefully the climate over the next few years. China may well be hailed as the winner in the coming decades.

Towards carbon neutrality

One country after another has issued declarations on carbon neutrality. They are based on the Paris climate convention. Accordingly, each country has made a commitment to carbon neutrality, but is free to announce the timeframe within which this objective is to be achieved. For Europe, the target is the year 2050 and for Finland 2035.

Competition over carbon neutrality will attract increasing attention over the next few years. It is downright incredible that countries have been able to agree on carbon neutrality on a global scale. It is one of mankind’s biggest common decisions.

United States lost four years

The United States’ environmental policy has suffered setbacks during President Trump’s term. He has announced his country’s withdrawal from one international agreement after another. The Paris climate convention also received a blow. The president’s leadership in climate matters is at variance with global trends which point away from fossil fuels to renewable natural resources. The November elections are also about the environmental policy that the United States will pursue over the next few years.

China sceptics

Sceptics have repeatedly pointed out that the pollution generated by China is disproportionate. Western companies have relocated operations to China. Many think that Chinese companies enjoy an unjust advantage due to lax environmental standards and requirements. China’s recent declaration on carbon neutrality by 2060 turns all previous doubts into a renewed belief in a major change in future. China’s investment will be massive. As a result of this transformation, China will probably take the lead in technological expertise in climate issues. It will underpin China’s global leadership.

At present, some 75% of China’s energy is generated using coal and oil. This should change over the next few decades to the extent that about 90% of all energy will be produced by fuels other than fossil ones. No wonder that the Wall Street Journal noted that China’s carbon neutrality declaration is “the biggest climate commitment made by any nation”.

Europe on the right track

European countries and the European Union strongly support carbon neutrality. But making changes is always challenging, as it calls for the right leadership and successful implementation. There are no guarantees for this, and the road ahead is full of potholes and chicanes. Even so, European leaders are taking determined steps to achieve carbon neutrality in the continent by 2050.

Conclusions

China’s declaration on carbon neutrality positions the country as the global leader. It will impose this vision on all fields of activity. China will be able to implement the efforts centrally. Chinese companies are bound to become technology leaders in new areas. Europe stands a good chance of succeeding if it is able to put its vision into practice. European companies are more agile than governments in achieving changes, but governments need to make decisions to facilitate and accelerate them.

The writer is VER's CEO Timo Löyttyniemi.

TLö blogi 2020