Carbon neutrality: how fast can China go?
The China Centre lecture on Thursday 21 October 2021 was delivered by Professor Pan Jiahua, Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Professor of Economics & Director, Institute of Ecocivilization Studies, Beijing University of Technology.
Professor Pan Jiahua’s lecture took place shortly before the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow. He located China’s policies towards climate change within the context of global efforts to combat climate change in recent decades, including the formation of the IPCC, the Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Accord and the Paris Agreement. Professor Pan traced the evolution of global climate change targets, culminating in the target of ‘net zero’ included in the Paris Agreement, with ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. Ensuring equitable access to electricity for the population of developing countries has been a key issue throughout, involving a complex relationship between the interests of rich and poor nations.
Professor Pan stressed the tremendous technical progress in energy technologies, which has accelerated in recent years. These technologies have played a central role in China’s efforts to combat climate change. The high-speed expansion of solar and wind power in China has been accompanied by a relentless decline in the cost of renewable power and an increase in its competitiveness compared to fossil fuels. Professor Pan analysed the progress in China’s thermal generation technologies, but emphasised that it is impossible to reach net zero by relying on thermal power. China’s leaders have made clear that a technological revolution in both energy supply and demand is necessary for China to achieve its net zero goal. Professor Pan stressed the tremendous opportunities that exist for innovation in technologies necessary to achieve net zero. He noted that China’s increased reliance on renewable energy sources has significant security implications, by reducing its dependence on fossil fuel imports.
A number of issues were addressed during the Q&A session. These included: the role of public transport in meeting China’s net zero goal; the impact of China’s net zero goal upon urban planning; the role of consumer choice, building technologies, new battery technologies and hydrogen-based technologies in achieving China’s climate change goals; and the impact of China’s climate goals upon the location of industry and urban centres of population.
Professor Pan Jiahua received his PhD in Environmental Economics from the University of Cambridge. He is currently a Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Director of the Institute of Eco-civilization Studies, Beijing University of Technology. He is President of the Chinese Society of Urban Economics, Vice President of the Chinese Association for Research & Promotion of Eco-civilization, Vice Chair, National Expert Panel on Climate Change in China, IGS (Independent Group of Scientists, appointed by UN Secretory-General for drafting GSDR2023) member, and lead author, IPCC Working Group III on Mitigation. He was formerly Director-General of the Institute of Eco-civilization Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Science, member of Foreign Policy Advisory Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Senior Economist, IPCC Working Group III, and Senior Programme Officer, UNDP Beijing Office.
Professor Pan Jiahua’s areas of research include sustainable urbanization, energy and climate policy, and new ecological economics. He was awarded first and second prizes for best research work, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2002, 2004 & 2013), Sun Yefang Award of Economic Sciences (2011), China Green Person of the Year 2010/2011 and China Environment Prize (2016).