Research Article

Assessing China’s efforts to pursue the 1.5°C warming limit

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Science  23 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6540, pp. 378-385
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba8767

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Change in the air

The 2016 Paris Agreement set the ambitious goals of keeping global temperature rise this century below 2°C, or even better, 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Substantial interventions are required to meet these goals, particularly for industrialized countries. Duan et al. projected that China will need to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 90% and its energy consumption by almost 40% to do its share in reaching the 1.5°C target. Negative emission technology is an essential element of any plan. China's accumulated economic costs by 2050 may be about 3 to 6% of its gross domestic product.

Science, this issue p. 378


Given the increasing interest in keeping global warming below 1.5°C, a key question is what this would mean for China’s emission pathway, energy restructuring, and decarbonization. By conducting a multimodel study, we find that the 1.5°C-consistent goal would require China to reduce its carbon emissions and energy consumption by more than 90 and 39%, respectively, compared with the “no policy” case. Negative emission technologies play an important role in achieving near-zero emissions, with captured carbon accounting on average for 20% of the total reductions in 2050. Our multimodel comparisons reveal large differences in necessary emission reductions across sectors, whereas what is consistent is that the power sector is required to achieve full decarbonization by 2050. The cross-model averages indicate that China’s accumulated policy costs may amount to 2.8 to 5.7% of its gross domestic product by 2050, given the 1.5°C warming limit.

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