A new multi-model analysis suggests that China will need to reduce its carbon emissions by over 90% and its energy consumption by almost 40%, in order to meet the more ambitious target set by the 2016 Paris Agreement.
The Agreement called for no more than a 1.5°Celsius (C) global temperature rise by 2050. These results provide a clear directive for China to deploy multiple strategies at once for long-term emission mitigation, the authors say.
The findings also highlight the need for more research on the economic consequences of working toward a 1.5°C warming limit, arguing that current studies are far from adequate to inform the sixth assessment report (AR 6) on climate change planned for release by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2022.
Most research to inform climate policy has centered on the goal of 2.0°C, and to date, “there is clearly no consensus on the attractiveness of a 1.5°C target, particularly given the uncertainty in associated mitigation costs,” say Hongbo Duan and colleagues.
To help fill in this gap, Duan et al. used multiple climate models to assess how China might attain this goal by mid-century. All models consistently showed that of all sectors, industry is the main emission contributor, and the power sector would need to achieve full decarbonization to meet the 1.5°C goal by 2050. Negative emission technologies would play an important role in the achievement of near-zero emissions, with captured carbon accounting on average for 20% of total reductions by 2050.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the cost of policies to attain this goal may amount to 2.8% to 5.7% of China’s gross domestic product by 2050. For future work, the authors note the need for improving representation of technology and climate-associated economic damage in future climate models.