BEIJING, July 19, China daily -- Climate modeling shows that a 1.5 °C temperature increase is significantly better than a 2 °C rise but requires greater efforts.
In a joint statement issued with France and the United Nations during the G20 summit in Osaka last month, China committed to enhance its Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. Prior to that, on April 1, 2019, an international conference for the enhancement of synergistic interaction between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Copenhagen confirmed that it is imperative to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels to meet the goals set in the 2030 Agenda.
The contracting parties of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change proposed "holding the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels" in the Paris Agreement of 2015. In order to realize this goal, in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was invited to write a Special Report on Global Warming and set 1.5 °C as the new target for temperature increase. This marks the new era for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
It is worth noting that, compared to 2 °C, the climate model shows that a 1.5 °C temperature increase has significant benefits: less extreme weather, lower probability of floods and drought, slower sea level rise, less impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem, and less related risks (spread of disease, crop failure, water shortage). However, a rise of 1.5 °C requires stronger actions to reduce carbon emissions.
As a responsible major country, China is playing an important role in realizing the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C. China's National Climate Change Plan (2014-2020), Enhanced Actions on Climate Change: China's Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and the Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change, and China's Policies and Actions on Climate Change: 2017 Annual Report, have all proposed related strategic plans and policy advice for climate change and the reduction of carbon emissions.
However, as shown in IPCC's Special Report on Global Warming limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels and mitigating climate change will require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society. For example, readjusting the industrial structure, optimizing the energy structure, limiting the greenhouse gas emissions in the areas of agriculture, architecture and transportation, and increased greenhouse gas absorption. As Liu Zhenmin, UN under-secretary-general for Economic and Social Affairs, pointed out at the Copenhagen conference in April, energy transformation is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, increasing greenhouse gas absorption and storage is another key approach to tackle climate change.
China has contributed significant efforts to both limiting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing greenhouse gas absorption.
In terms of absorption, the forest carbon pool has been increased. And China has implemented a natural forest protection project and turned more marginal farmland into woodland since 1998, to protect current and newly added forests.
As of 2019, the natural forest protection project has made great progress, with a net increase of forestry area of about 10 million hectares, and a net increase of forest stock volume of 725 million cubic meters. The natural forest volume has increased from 9.07 billion cubic meters to 13.67 billion cubic meters in 20 years.
As for the project of converting farmland to forest, from 2014 to 2018, the accumulated forest returned had reached 3.65 million hectares.
In terms of emissions reduction, China strives to develop clean energy, apart from strict control over coal consumption and clean utilization of fossil fuel.
China's national renewable energy installed power generation capacity has now reached 650 million kilowatt-hours, a year-on-year growth of 14 percent.
China's renewable power generation capacity comprises 36.6 percent of its total installed electricity capacity, with a year-on-year growth of 2.1 percent.
In 2017, the country's total capacity of hydro, wind and solar power generation was 160 trillion kWh, a 98.9 billion kWh increase from last year. And by taking a series of steps, Chinese energy structure has been further optimized.
The author is assistant professor with the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.