Skip to main content

Solar photovoltaic modules on a hillside in a village in Chuzhou STR/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Bold Energy Vision

China’s proposed Global Energy Interconnection – based on renewables, ultra-high-voltage transmission, and an AI-powered smart grid – represents the boldest global initiative by any government to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement. It is a strategy fit for the scale of the most important challenge the world faces today.

BEIJING – The boldest plan to achieve the targets set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement comes from China. The Paris accord commits the world’s governments to keeping global warming to well below 2º Celsius (3.6º Fahrenheit) relative to the pre-industrial level. This can be accomplished mainly by shifting the world’s primary energy sources from carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to zero-carbon, renewable (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, ocean, biomass), and nuclear energy by the year 2050. China’s Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) offers a breathtaking vision of how to achieve this energy transformation.

Few governments appreciate the scale of this transformation. Climate scientists speak of the “carbon budget” – the total amount of carbon dioxide that humanity can emit in the coming years while still keeping global warming to under 2º. Current estimates put the mid-point estimate of the world’s carbon budget at around 600 billion tons. Humanity currently emits around 40 billion tons of CO2 per year, implying that the world has only until mid-century or even sooner to phase out fossil fuels and move entirely to zero-emission sources of primary energy.

Here’s what needs to be done. Today’s electricity is largely generated by burning coal and natural gas; these thermal power plants need to be phased out and replaced by electricity generated by solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, and other non-carbon sources. Today’s buildings are heated mostly by boilers, radiators, and furnaces fueled by heating oil and natural gas; these need to be replaced by buildings heated by electricity. Today’s vehicles run on petroleum products; these need to be replaced by electric vehicles.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/CKcK8F3;

Handpicked to read next

  1. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

    0
  2. sufi2_getty Images_graph Getty Images

    Could Ultra-Low Interest Rates Be Contractionary?

    Ernest Liu, et al.

    Although low interest rates have traditionally been viewed as positive for economic growth because they encourage businesses to invest in enhancing productivity, this may not be the case. Instead, Ernest Liu, Amir Sufi, and Atif Mian contend, extremely low rates may lead to slower growth by increasing market concentration and thus weakening firms' incentive to boost productivity.

    4

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions