How can China achieve its carbon neutrality goal?

How can china achieve its carbon neutrality goal?
Fig. 1. The Yin and Yang of fossil vs non-fossil fuel energy source mix. Credit: Zeng et al

On September 22, 2020, China announced its climate goal to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060, which is called the Double Carbon Goal, or Shuang Tan, in Chinese.

However, the needed transition toward non-fossil fuel energy represents a "Yin to Yang reversal"; the challenges are enormous, according to a perspective article recently published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

The study was conducted by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, University of Maryland, the Breakthrough Institute, Tsinghua University, and the Ministry of Climate Change of Pakistan.

It provides several insightful pathways toward China's goal and analysis of four representative scenarios that show different ways to achieve neutrality.

A typical scenario to achieve China's carbon neutrality goal before 2060 would require a complete reversal of relative energy proportion to the nation's total energy supply. This includes an unprecedented rapid increase in and nuclear generation, and a decrease in fossil fuel use less than 30 years after peak .

In all these scenarios, implementing non-fossil fuel energy sources is the primary component. Nuclear, wind, and bio energy approach their corresponding resource limitations in each situation, with as an exception. This suggests that solar energy is critical to any carbon neutrality goal.

The recently achieved price equality of solar and compared to fossil fuel sources lays the foundation for the ambitious goal. However, the needed large-scale deployment is subject to technological and commercial bottlenecks.

Researchers also recommend a cautious approach with conventional nuclear electricity generation, and a faster phaseout of coal powered plants. More aggressive distributed solar such as agrivoltaics, wind, small and modular nuclear, smart grid, and storage action is needed.

How can china achieve its carbon neutrality goal?
Fig. 2. The new energy map of China with a balanced portfolio. Credit: Zeng et al

The study also suggests that the near-term policies that allow for a gradual transition, followed by more drastic changes after 2030, can eventually reach the carbon-neutral goal and lead to less of a reduction in cumulative emissions, thus inconsistent with the IPCC 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario.

The challenges and prospects are discussed in the historical context of China's socio-economic reform, globalization, international collaboration, and development.

According to the study, China's goal requires a stunningly large quantity of inter-connected utility-scale and distributed non-fossil fuel power generation, as well as natural carbon sinks that offset remaining fossil fuel emissions.

More information: Ning Zeng et al, The Chinese Carbon-Neutral Goal: Challenges and Prospects, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s00376-021-1313-6

Journal information: Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

Citation: How can China achieve its carbon neutrality goal? (2022, January 31) retrieved 6 December 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Bridging atmospheric scientists and solar engineers to reach carbon neutrality


Feedback to editors