Emergency Podcast! Expert Panel Dissects China's 2060 Carbon Neutral Shocker

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We don't do this often, but in today's podcast we address some breaking news: President Xi Jinping's announcement that China will peak carbon emissions before 2030 and set a new goal of net-neutral carbon emissions by 2060. The speech, delivered remotely to the United Nations during Climate Week, caught energy and climate watchers by surprise.

In this mini-podcast, recorded less than 24 hours after the announcement, host Anders Hove gathered three top energy and climate experts (and long-time Beijing Energy Network speakers) for a short and rapid-fire panel discussion:

Li Shuo is senior global policy analyst at Greenpeace East Asia.

Lauri Myllyvirta is lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Kaare Sandholt is chief expert at the China National Renewable Energy Centre, at the NDRC Energy Research Institute.

To keep the show notes brief, here are the items mentioned or referenced by the guests:

The China National Renewable Energy Centre's China Renewable Energy Outlook (full version, may not work in certain browsers: http://boostre.cnrec.org.cn/index.php/2020/03/30/china-renewable-energy-outlook-2019-2/?lang=en; executive summary: https://www.dena.de/fileadmin/dena/Publikationen/PDFs/2019/CREO2019_-_Executive_Summary_2019.pdf) CREO's 2050 Below 2 Degree scenario anticipates non-fossil energy reaching 65% of primary energy (26% wind, 18% solar, 8% nuclear, 6% hydro, 8% other RE). Under this scenario, China would ramp up from installing around 40 GW of solar and 35 GW wind in recent years to 60 GW of solar and 55 GW wind in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), eventually peaking annual installations at 150 GW each wind and solar in 2031-2035), and finally reaching around 2,000 GW of wind and solar in the late 2030s. (China currently has over 200 GW each of wind and solar installed.)

See also various publications using the China-SWITCH model, such as Enabling a Rapid and Just Transition Away from Coal," One Earth, 2020 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7442150/ and "Rapid cost decrease of renewables and storage accelerates the decarbonization of China’s power system," Nature, 2020, at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16184-x.

Lauri mentions his recent article on China's covid recovery investments and how they break down by high-carbon versus low-carbon: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-chinas-covid-stimulus-plans-for-fossil-fuels-three-times-larger-than-low-carbon

Kaare mentions Document #9 on Deepening Reform of the Power Sector. You can read more about that 2015 policy here: https://www.raponline.org/blog/a-new-framework-for-chinas-power-sector/

This episode was produced by Anders Hove and edited by Veronica Spurna.

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