China’s role in tackling global warming and air pollution, one of the world’s largest environmental health risks, is critical. As the largest source of emissions, cities play an outsized role in generating GHG but also in developing and implementing solutions to peak emissions and ultimately bring them to zero. In order to do so, cities in China and throughout the globe must decouple economic growth and prosperity from carbon and from pollution, thereby realizing sustainable and equitable development.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) convened an English-language webinar with Chinese and international thought leaders to reflect on the urban climate achievements of USAID’s Low Emissions Cities Alliance. In this session, we shared our results in supporting the development of emissions peaking roadmaps across China, and we then explored how these roadmaps offer critical building blocks for realizing China’s 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, including a discussion about the most promising pathways for the cities across the globe to achieve their net-zero climate ambition.
Our panelists had some great insights about work Chinese cities have done to peak their emissions by 2030, how those learnings might apply to long term zero carbon strategies, and what challenges lie ahead for countries across the globe to achieve their ambitious climate change goals.
We identified these five key takeaways from the webinar:
- Net Zero Commitments Are Growing: Over 60% of global emissions and 75% of global GDP is already covered by net zero commitments.
- Sub-national Actors Play a Critical Role: National commitments are generally implemented sub-nationally by local government and by corporations, so supporting local actors with capacity building and tools is essential to implement the commitments. ISC’s Low Emission Cities Alliance (LECA) has validated the effectiveness of this approach in China.
- Climate Action Plans Must Align: Net zero transformation over the next 40 years will happen incrementally via stages. A range of short-term and long-term planning horizons must be aligned and integrated. For example, early peaking – i.e., planning for emissions growth to crest, then recede – is an important initial stepping-stone on this journey.
- Net Zero Requires Iteration: Begin long-term planning and stakeholder engagement right away and at every level, then iterate and update every five years as contexts and technologies evolve.
- Equity Should be Central: Net zero is first and foremost about developing a safe, healthy and prosperous planet for all people. To achieve this, equity must be at the core of a just transition to carbon neutrality. All net zero plans must embrace an inclusive, triple-bottom line approach encompassing social, environmental and economic progress.