China may be able to come close to a 50% 2030 reduction goal if the implementation of policy groundwork is intensified

The latest installment of the IPCC’s Assessment Report AR6 stipulates that countries will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over 1990 temperatures by 2030. Will China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, achieve this goal?

While there is no crystal ball to fully predict the future of China’s emissions, the latest IPCC report has certainly been noticed by leading decision-makers within the country. China is not just an emitter but also one of the most affected countries by greenhouse gas emissions. The latest report was widely publicized and discussed by government entities and relevant academia. While China’s goal is to work towards its updated NDCs and dual carbon goal – peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral before 2060  – the report may well serve to further move the needle towards “emergency mode, thus potentially leading to more urgency in advancing new policies and intensifying implementation of existing policies to exceed the NDC goals and move towards coming close to reaching the 2030 50% goal.

A few elements provide hope for the above evaluation because, in the words of the NRDC organization, “successful climate action doesn’t look like just one thing—it looks like many things […] It means ending our systemic addiction to fossil fuels. […] deploying electric cars and offshore wind power and reducing our food waste. […] rewriting building codes […], protecting forests, and using less land to raise methane-producing livestock. […] It’s equally about building resilience and adapting climate action […].”[i]

China is juggling the challenges of energy security needs and economic development with the need to implement strict climate policies. However, it has now clearly embedded climate neutrality in its economic development narrative  and, over the past decade, laid the groundwork for emission reduction:

  • It has aggressively pursued the establishment of renewable energy sources and turned them into world-leading industries. In addition, according to a recent report by EMBER, around 50% of the global addition of wind power came from China.
  • It is building relevant infrastructure from UHV transmission lines to link renewable energy sources to energy-consuming regions to electrification the rail system.
  • It has introduced the world’s largest Emission Trading Scheme, which currently includes the power generation industry but is set to grow as experience allows for adjustments and the system matures.
  • It has started to put in place an encompassing system for green finance, such as green bonds, ESG investment programs, insurance tools, and subsidies for environmental projects and innovation.
  • It has introduced industrial policies that compel the private sector as well as – to a degree – State-Owned Companies to upgrade their production processes to implement energy efficiency measures, circularity models, and waste reduction programs.
  • It has made China the largest New Energy Vehicles market and established a corresponding industry that produces world-leading EV technology.
  • It is pursuing policies for the creation of carbon sinks, such as the rehabilitation of wetlands and grasslands, as well as reforestation programs.
  • And it has introduced a promotion system for local officials that rewards their environmental protection and emissions reduction efforts, away from a GDP-only approach.

Some predictions for 2023 foresee further commercialization of the climate-neutral business, from the entry of traditional players with departments or subsidiaries concerned with climate neutrality, new business models, new financing models, new infrastructure, new services like carbon data monitoring, etc. What will make a difference in China is the realization that with market-based tools, climate neutrality, and economic gain – both within China and internationally – can be achieved.

In a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants, 27 times bigger than, for example, Germany, with differing geographies, topographies, climate zones, and differing economic development stages, much hinges on a unified adaptation of national policies on the provincial, regional, and local levels and on the capacity building to grow local entrepreneurial talent for sustainability and qualify local officials to implement national policy in a meaningful way according to local conditions.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager: Annette Wiedenbach 

Learn More Resources:



Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.