Exploring the technological feasibility of low-carbon, sustainable development pathways and understanding the barriers that may hinder their progress is vital for identifying the actions that countries need to take if the internationally-agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C is to be achieved. In this AVOID study, led by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, the focus is on China’s potential pathways to a low-carbon energy system by 2050.
- On business as usual assumptions, China’s CO2 emissions could represent nearly 30% of global emissions by 2050, reflecting the sheer scale of China’s rapidly-developing (largely coal-based) economy.
- Significant decarbonisation of the electricity sector could underpin China’s low-carbon development pathway, replacing unabated coal with a combination of coal and gas with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), nuclear, solar, wind and other renewable power sources, requiring specific technology support and carbon pricing.
- Energy efficiency across all of the major energy-using sectors (transport, buildings and industry) will also be critical, and the greater the efficiency achieved the lower the overall costs of decarbonisation.
This will need effective regulatory policy, supported by monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
- Many low carbon technologies in China could benefit from support including a long-term, stable carbon price. The international community’s experience with carbon pricing and carbon trading schemes, as well as with regulatory and monitoring frameworks, could provide examples for China in these areas.
- A low-carbon pathway could benefit China by reducing oil and coal demand, and improving air quality, whilst achieving widespread energy access. It is also likely to speed up the global development and price reductions of key low-carbon technologies such as solar photovoltaics (PV), electric vehicles, wind, nuclear and CCS.