Stakeholders join hands in low-carbon endeavors

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, November 24, 2022
Adjust font size:

On November 1, Cainiao Network, e-commerce giant Alibaba's logistics arm, posted a special ad online, recruiting 1,000 volunteers to show customers how to recycle their express packages at more than 300 Cainiao outlets nationwide. In turn, people could receive eggs or other gifts, a typical incentive in China adopted by companies to promote their products or services.

The call intends to encourage individuals to reduce their carbon emissions and protect the environment. The recycled cardboard boxes will be used for future deliveries or turned into notebooks that will be donated to charities helping students in need. The campaign runs from November 1 to 20, the peak delivery period for Alibaba's annual online shopping bonanza known as Double 11, which started on November 11, 2009.

At this point in time, all sectors of Chinese society have actively addressed climate change and promised to peak their carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

Top-down action 

The country has always attached great importance to addressing climate change and has made positive progress in the past years, with carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP declining, according to China's Policies and Actions to Address Climate Change 2022 Annual Report released by China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment in October.

The report introduces the country's recent top-down actions in the fight against climate change. For example, by 2025, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be lowered by 18 percent from the 2020 level—an obligatory target for every region nationwide. All provincial-level regions are required to set specific targets and tasks to achieve green and low-carbon development.

In Shanxi, a major coal-producing province that has produced nearly 10 billion tons of coal in the past decade—about a quarter of the national output, digital transformation is encouraged in coal mines. With the adoption of cutting-edge technology and digitized systems, mining efficiency has been on the up.

Previously, exploiting 1 ton of coal required 2.48 tons of water, whereas modern water retention technology has now significantly lowered the impact on water resources, despite increasing mining costs by about 20 yuan ($2.9) per ton, Li Shi, chief engineer of a mine in Jiexiu of Shanxi Province, explained to Xinhua News Agency. The local government also came up with supporting measures to subsidize or offer other preferential policies to companies and projects embracing green development.

In addition to green science and technology, economic measures have also been adopted to reduce carbon emissions. In 2020, Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province unveiled China's first local green finance regulation, requiring financial institutions registered there to disclose their environmental impact data and provide products and services conducive to saving resources and protecting the ecological environment.

Carbon emission trading is another targeted undertaking in China. "We have successfully launched the world's largest carbon emission trading market covering greenhouse gas emissions, which is a very impressive achievement," Li Gao, head of the Department of Climate Change at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said.

The market started operating on the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange on July 16 last year and intends to curb carbon emissions through trading. The system works by first placing caps on carbon dioxide emissions and then allowing price discoveries for carbon emissions through trading among market participants. Provided carbon prices are sufficiently high, such trading provides companies with financial incentives to save money by cutting their emissions in the most cost-effective ways. The power industry was the first industry to be covered by the program, with over 2,000 power companies, accounting for over 40 percent of China's emissions, joining the market. Individuals, too, can participate in trading.

China is in a good position to turn climate action into economic opportunity, despite its energy, industrial, and transport systems, cities and land use patterns all having to undergo dramatic transformations, according to the China Country Climate and Development Report released by the World Bank. The decarbonization transition will unlock new sources of economic growth, innovation and job creation, with the added benefits of lowering China's reliance on imported fuels and enhancing its energy security.

"China should take the carbon-neutral goal as its guide, and drive the technological upgrading of related industries toward green, low-carbon transformation, which will in turn be one of the important engines of the country's economic growth in the long run," Teng Fei, climate and environmental research expert and deputy head of the Institute of Energy Environment and Ecology at Tsinghua University, told Beijing Review.

Bottom-up engagement 

China has been actively creating a green and low-carbon atmosphere for years, encouraging the public to participate in carbon emission reduction and exploring the creation of a more pluralistic mechanism for social participation, China's Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua said on November 6 at an event themed Green Life, Joint Efforts and Shared Benefits—Advocating Public Participation in Taking Green Actions inside the China Pavilion at the venue for the 27th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

"Public participation is an important driving force for green and low-carbon development and a key indicator for the modernization of a country's environmental governability and governance system," Xie said.

Multiple platforms, ranging from Alibaba's digital payment platform Alipay to applets on the multi-functional WeChat platform, are offering people the opportunity to acquire green credits by purchasing green household appliances, riding shared bicycles, driving new energy vehicles and reducing their use of disposable tableware. They can then exchange these credits for cinema vouchers, parking coupons, and other inspiring rewards.

Take the example of Wang Ying, a college student in Beijing, who recently rented a shared bike for a 20-minute ride and used WeChat to pay for it. Inside a WeChat applet that allows Beijing residents to track their personal carbon emission reduction efforts, launched by the Beijing Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Center in August, she saw her bike ride had helped reduce 312 grams of carbon emissions—gaining her four credits. "It's very satisfying to see the actual numbers, which indicate I'm contributing my share to saving the planet," Wang said.

Residential consumption behavior accounts for a large proportion of China's total energy consumption. "We use energy for our daily clothing, food, shelter and transportation. But even when one person's energy use is seemingly limited, the total amount still cannot be underestimated. In a sense, there's more room for energy conservation and carbon reduction on the consumer side than on the production side," Huang Jinping, an expert on climate change and energy economics working for the Hubei University of Economics, elaborated.

And so, these personal accounts will need to engage more individuals. Currently, different platforms may not be compatible as they don't share the same carbon reduction standards. "The individual carbon [reduction] accounts are scattered all over the place, and require consensus in terms of standards and [calculation] methods. They need regional and national criteria. Authorities will need to adjust the related laws and regulations accordingly," Chang Jiwen, a researcher on resources and environmental policies with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said, adding that if China can make the aforementioned work as a relatively complete mechanism, the country may provide the world with an innovative reference framework for the promotion of greener consumption lifestyles.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from