China critical for combatting emissions: FT forum
China's efforts will be critical in combatting climate change, experts said at the FT Energy Transition Strategies Summit on October 5.
"Until China lowers its overall emissions, global emissions will not be lowered. It's inexorable," Paul Bledsoe, a strategic partner at the Progressive Policy Institute in the US, said. "China now produces twice the emissions as the rest of the world put together – its an incredible state of affairs."
China faces considerable challenges in addressing its emissions, but it also enjoys significant opportunities, Ita Kettleborough, deputy director at the London-based Energy Transitions Commission, added. The country has ample, high-quality wind and solar resources, she said, and thanks to the country's large size, it can better balance these renewables in its grid.
China is also a leading developer of solar power equipment, and is looking to spearhead the production of electrolysers, used for producing green hydrogen, as well.
"China is already driving many of the cost curves and driving the manufacturing scale of critical technologies," Kettleborough said.
Bledsoe said a balance of cooperation and competition with China was needed to address climate change.
"A certain level of cooperation has to be baked into the system. But at the same time, we have huge opportunities to have competition with China to drive down prices," he said.
Christine Loh, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said that deescalating political tensions, particularly between China and the US, would help accelerate the pace of the energy transition. She added there was a need to cooperate on how China's Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the US Build Back Better and the EU's Global Gateway initiatives could complement each other in terms of addressing emissions.
"There's too much of the language of conflict rather than cooperation from politicians," she said.
Despite its climate commitments, China plans to build up to another 43 coal-fired plants, according to a recent report by environmental group Greenpeace, with a combined capacity of over 100 GW. The country currently relies on coal for 57% of its power.
Loh said there was a "tug of war" in China between expanding renewables to reduce emissions and providing enough energy to fuel economic growth. While China is building new coal stations, she said, some of these ultra-supercritical plants will replace older and more-polluting stations currently in operation. Carbon capture technology can also be installed at these new facilities, she said.
China does not expect its emissions to peak until around 2030, although Loh said she was waiting to see if China might bring forward this target at the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.