China’s announced NDC update is slightly more ambitious than their current NDC, the latter amounting to an emissions reductions of 74-92% above 2005 levels by 2030 (or close to 13.7-15.1 GtCO₂ e p.a.), excluding LULUCF.,
The NDC update aims to peak CO₂ emissions before 2030, reduce carbon intensity by over 65% from 2005 levels, and increase non-fossil fuels energy share to around 25%., This would translate in emissions levels of 12.9-14.4 GtCO₂ e p.a. excluding LULUCF by 2030 (or 63-82% above 2005 levels).
A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require the country to peak their GHG emissions almost immediately and achieve an emissions reduction of 17% (3-25%) below 2005 levels by 2030, excluding LULUCF – confirming results from previous studies. This translates to emissions levels of 6.6 (5.9-7.7) GtCO₂ e p.a. by 2030. Assuming China officially adopts its announced NDC target, the country would need to close an emission gap of at least 5.2 GtCO₂ e p.a. to be 1.5°C compatible.
Based on current GDP projections, the 1.5°C compatible emissions levels given above would correspond to a carbon intensity reduced by 85-91% by 2030 below 2005 levels. China’s newly released 14th Five Year Plan, covering the years 2021 to 2025, has set a target to reduce current carbon intensity by 18% over those years., China beat their previous five year target (also 18% reduction) and realised an 18.8% reduction between 2015 and 2020. Meeting the 14th Five Year Plan carbon intensity target and a further 18% reduction between 2026 and 2030 would allow China to achieve their proposed NDC update target. However, greater reduction would be necessary to be 1.5°C compatible.
Long term pathway
President Xi Jinping’s September 2020 announcement includes the long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.
This announcement does not specify if neutrality refers to CO₂ or all GHG emissions. If the former, the target would lead to around 2050 MtCO₂ e p.a. in 2060 (excluding LULUCF) or emissions reductions of around 75% below 2005 levels. If the target were to cover all GHG emissions, 2060 emissions would be around 600 MtCO₂ e p.a. (excluding LULUCF), or around 92% below 2005 levels.
To be 1.5°C compatible, GHG emissions should peak immediately and when excluding the contribution of LULUCF sinks, China CO₂ emissions would need to reach zero around 2060 showing emissions reductions of 93% (90-98%) below 2005 levels by 2050 and GHG emissions would need to drop to around 20% of 2005 levels by 2050.,
Remaining GHG emissions will need to be balanced through the use of carbon dioxide removal approaches, including sustainable a/reforestation, direct air capture of carbon dioxide, or sustainable bioenergy coupled with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
Of the 1.5°C compatible illustrative pathways analysed, negative emissions from industrial processes feature prominently in those scenarios which assume a high reliance on Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), particularly after 2040. The scenario which assumes low CDR and high energy demand has agriculture as the leading emitting sector after 2040, followed by industry, and these emissions are offset by negative emissions in the energy sector.