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    China needs to slash coal use by 80% by 2060 to meet climate goals: IEA


China could see peak emissions in the mid-2020s if it delivers on its short-term policies.

by: Joseph Murphy

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China needs to slash coal use by 80% by 2060 to meet climate goals: IEA

China will have to reduce its consumption of coal by 80% by 2060, as well as cut oil and gas use by 60% and over 45% respectively, in order to achieve carbon neutrality within the next four decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on September 29.

China is the source of one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is targeting net-zero emissions by 2060 – ten years later than most other nations. In its report on the roadmap for China reaching carbon neutrality, the IEA said that the country would also have to scale up solar power generation so that it is the country's largest primary energy source by around 2045. By 2060, almost a fifth of electricity will be used to produce hydrogen, the Paris-based agency said.

"The level of investment required for China to achieve its goals is well within its financial means," the IEA said. "Energy sector investment climbs significantly in absolute terms, but falls as a share of overall economic activity."

The agency envisages these annual investments reaching $640bn in 2030 and almost $900bn in 2060, representing a 60% increase from the spend in recent years. Yet their share of GDP should fall from 2.5% in 2016-2020 to only 1.1% in 2060.

Chinese president Xi Jinping announced the country's net-zero pledge in September last year, while also stating that China would strive to have peak CO2 emissions no later than 2030. But the IEA believes the peak could come sooner, in the mid-2020s, if it delivers on its short-term policy targets. China's 2021-2025 five year plan calls for a 18% reduction in CO2 intensity, a 13.5% cut in energy intensity and an expansion in the non-hydrocarbon share of energy consumption to 20% from 16% last year.

"If China achieves these short-term policy targets, the IEA projects that China's CO2 emissions from fuel combustion will be on track to plateau in the mid-2020s and then enter a modest decline to 2030," the agency said.

"China has the means and capabilities to accomplish an even faster clean energy transition that would result in greater social and economic benefits for the Chinese people and also increase the world's chances of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5oC," IEA director Fatih Birol said.