The real drivers of a low carbon future: China and India

The real drivers of a low carbon future: China and India

Even the normally cautious Guardian enthused about the signal of global seriousness about climate change evidenced by a record 170 nations signing the Paris accord on a single day and emerging hopes that enough nations might ratify by the end of this year to bring the accord into legal effect four years earlier than originally anticipated. The paper summed up that the signatories had “declared an end to the fossil fuel era,” quoting French President Francois Hollande’s pledge that “there is no turning back.” But the paper ran a simultaneous article signaling the remaining gap between Paris pledges and climate sustainability.

What has not been fully appreciated is the uneven patchiness of global progress in the wake of Paris. The EU, historically the leader globally, was the one major emitter uncertain if it could ratify by the end of 2016, citing its complex multi-national processes, while the U.S., China and India all signaled their commitment to ratification by December. (One of the cited reasons for the urgency, to prevent a possible President Trump from backing out of the Paris agreement, is sadly risible. Trump has signaled his intention of walking away from far more deeply ingrained treaty obligations than those imposed in Paris and in the unlikely event he takes the White House, the impact on the global economy will, in the short term, likely drive emissions down drastically. Meanwhile the major drivers of U.S. compliance with Paris, collapsing U.S. reliance on coal electricity and steadily stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, will be almost impossible for even Trump to reverse).

But the real drivers of a low carbon future appear to be China and India. In the barely three months since Paris both countries have launched a staggering set of initiatives to cut their emission trajectories. China has imposed a floor price of $40/barrel on oil, signaled an intent to cancel 90 percent of the new coal plants awaiting approval, suspended approvals of new coal mines and mandated phase outs of 500 million tons of existing mining operations, cut coal consumption and emissions for the second year in a row. It has now committed to cutting the carbon dependence of its 2020 economy 50 percent below 2005 levels. Its State Grid company has floated a plan for a global renewable energy grid to phase out reliance on fossil fuels, connecting wind power from the North Pole with solar arrays in the Sahara to power human communities in the latitudes in between.

India too has moved aggressively, accelerating vehicle emission standards, assigning next steps on its aggressive renewable energy targets, increasing the tax on coal carbon eight fold and setting tough standards for pollution from coal power plants.

Source: Ecowatch

Date: May 2016

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Tags assigned to this article:
Chinaemissionsenergy policyIndia @enrenewables

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