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Towards Zero Carbon in 2050: Benchmarking International Advanced Development Concepts and Practices

I. Background

        Climate Tipping Point means that a warming earth has led to a series of irreversible and uncontrollable catastrophic reactions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 ° C (2018) states that this critical point will occur between 1 ° C and 2 ° C. At present, the average temperature of our earth has risen by 1 ° C compared to the pre-industrial age, and the earth is entering this climatic critical point. And this critical point is not left to humans for 100 years, but may happen in the next 10-20 years. As the scientists screamed in the November 27, 2019 issue of Nature: Humans need an emergency response! The climate tipping point is too dangerous, we can’t afford to bet!


     Milestone 1: Paris Agreement (2015)

        187 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have signed agreements aimed at linking sustainable development and poverty eradication efforts to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, including:

  1. Control the increase in global average temperature below the pre-industrial level and below 2 ° C, and strive to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial level, while recognizing that this will greatly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  2. Increase capacity to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and enhance climate resilience and low-emission greenhouse gas development in a way that does not threaten food production;
  3. Align funding flows with low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-adapted development paths.

    Milestone 2: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 ° C (2018)

  1. If countries according to the Paris Agreement submitted by each State Party independently contribute emission reduction targets, global warming will not be limited to 1.5 ° C, but it will cause global warming of about 3 ° C by 2100. Therefore, human beings must adopt a larger-scale and deeper emission reduction method to control the Earth’s climate disaster within an acceptable range.
  2. Achieving the 1.5 ° C target requires: a) that global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions will be reduced by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030; b) that net zero will be reached by 2050.
  3. Renewable energy is expected to provide 70% –85% of electricity by 2050. From 2016 to 2050, the average annual (renewable) energy investment is 640 billion to 910 billion US dollars.

Third, progress

     1. 75 countries pledge to announce 2050 zero carbon strategy by 2020

        The UN Climate Action Summit 2019 announced: 65 countries and the European Union, 10 regions, 102 cities have committed to achieving net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, of which Sweden, the United Kingdom and France have completed zero carbon emissions Legislation, more countries are formulating more radical goals and policies than the Paris Agreement.

        2. EU Leads to Global 2050 Zero Carbon Goals and Policies

  1. The 28 member states of the European Union, except Poland, support the European Union’s 2050 zero-carbon target (see Table 1 below).
  2. Compared with the previous investment amount of 2% of GDP, the EU estimates that investment in the zero-carbon energy sector will increase to 2.8%, and the annual investment increase is expected to be between 175 billion and 290 billion euros.
  3. The European Union proposes to increase the budget for special climate funds by 25% between 2021-2027, while leveraging more market funds. Behavior change and circular economy will play an important role in the zero-carbon economy policy.

        3. International advanced cities commit to zero-carbon development

        The Urban Transformation Alliance (2019) global report shows:

  1. Existing user terminal low-carbon technologies and measures (building, transportation, material efficiency and waste reduction) can enable cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90% ;
  2. Cities with more than half of their emission reduction opportunities below one million people;
  3. By 2050, zero-carbon city investment is expected to reach US $ 23.9 trillion at current prices, with an average annual investment of US $ 1.83 trillion (2% of global GDP). The return will be US $ 2.8 trillion per year by 2030. By 2050 It previously reached $ 6.9 trillion per year.

        The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) has organized 21 member cities around the world to create a zero carbon alliance.

        The ISC project team further introduced the zero carbon development goals and plans of 23 advanced cities around the world, including New York, London, Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles and many other international first-tier cities (see Table 2 below).

        The international advanced city role model experience conveys several important positive signals:

  1. Based on the city’s own development needs and resource endowment status, a carbon neutral (zero carbon) target for 2025-2050 is proposed. Compared with the base year, the emission reductions are more than 80%;
  2. Each city has issued a climate action plan, planning renewable energy supply and power supply according to time nodes, improving low-carbon travel facilities and services, ultra-low-energy buildings and waste reduction cycles, and other key measures, forming a clear carbon neutral roadmap;
  3. International experience over the past 20-30 years shows that low carbon does not only affect economic development, but also promotes economic development . Urban development strategies effectively integrate mitigation and adaptation to climate action, decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions, and most have successfully achieved the dual goals of economic growth and carbon emissions reduction. Since 1990, the city of San Francisco has grown by 110%, and its carbon emissions have decreased by 30% over the same period. Since 2005, the Danish capital Copenhagen has grown by 24% and carbon emissions have been reduced by 42%. The implementation of low-carbon city solutions has become an important measure for urban transformation and quality development.

Message from China

  1. Most cities in China are still in the process of peaking carbon emissions. It is estimated that between 2020 and 2030, low-carbon pilot cities in more than 80 countries will take the lead, and the country as a whole will reach its peak around 2030.
  2. According to international experience, under the current technological and economic conditions, a city from carbon peak to carbon neutrality will be a long process, the duration will reach 30-40 years, which means that the carbon neutrality era of most Chinese cities It may come 30 to 40 years after reaching the peak, which means zero carbon during 2060-2070. It is expected that some advanced cities in China will take the lead to achieve 2050 zero carbon.
  3. The experience of the rapid development of Chinese cities in the past 30 years tells us that by benchmarking against international advanced concepts and practices, cities with clear development goals, location advantages and development capabilities can achieve leapfrog development in a short period of time. Similarly, the construction of a zero-carbon city can also learn from the above-mentioned international advanced experience, overtake curves, shorten the path and time of urban transformation, and achieve high-quality development at a lower level of emissions.
  4. A thousand miles begins with a single step. In particular, China’s economically developed cities and unique resource endowment areas urgently need to look at the world and the future on the basis of consolidating the five-year plan, and actively plan a zero-carbon development roadmap, and follow the path of zero-carbon development with Chinese characteristics.

        ISC is willing to explore and practice with Chinese cities to provide a Chinese solution for the world’s 2050 zero-carbon development.

        Welcome colleagues and readers to exchange corrections and look forward to more cooperation. For detailed literature report URL, please contact Ms. Geng Yu, ISC project manager: