Policy ForumClimate and Energy

China's key role in scaling low-carbon energy technologies

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Science  15 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6467, pp. 794-796
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz1014

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Summary

Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will require net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 and substantial reductions before then. It will also require collaboration with China, which has emerged as the global leader in the mass production of low-carbon energy technologies (LCETs). In part because of China's investments in manufacturing, the LCETs required to meet climate targets have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuel sources (1). But some attribute China's rapid rise in LCET sectors to unfair industrial policies—such as forced technology transfer requirements, massive subsidies, and outright intellectual property (IP) theft—aimed at strategically dominating the next generation of energy technologies (2). Trade relations between China and the world are currently unsettled, especially with the United States, a leading producer of both LCET research and development (R&D) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Against this backdrop, we outline why engaging with China is the more promising path to accelerate the global deployment of LCETs and to rapidly bring new technologies to mass production.

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