CHINA 'Earth lab' to assist green transition

CHINA

'Earth lab' to assist green transition

China Daily

08:57, October 19, 2022

Domestic and international journalists covering the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China visit the Daxing International Hydrogen Energy Demonstration Zone in Beijing on Tuesday. (Photo: CHINA DAILY)

In Beijing's suburban Miyun district, a new "Earth lab" simulating the carbon circulation of the planet is expected to become a new tool in China's fight against climate change.

The lab, the first of its kind in China, will help scientists study the Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere and lithosphere, as well as their interactions.

By simulating the changes and interactions of the planet's multiple spheres, the "Earth lab" can calculate greenhouse gas emissions and predict global climate situations and temperature increases in the coming decades.

Since China announced two years ago that it will peak carbon emissions before 2030 and strive for carbon neutrality before 2060, the country has made the realization of the "dual carbon" goals a priority of its long-term agenda.

This pursuit of a low-carbon future was emphasized in the report delivered by Xi Jinping to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Sunday in Beijing.

China "will promote concerted efforts to cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution, expand green development and pursue economic growth", the report said.

The nation has made relentless efforts to push for green and low-carbon development over the past decade.

The "Earth lab", backed by the country's homegrown supercomputing capacity, is among only a few systems in the world that are able to simulate the evolution of the Earth's climate system on a global scale, according to Zhang He, a researcher with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"With the world seeing more extreme weather caused by climate change, the 'Earth lab' could offer important information to help policymakers design measures for mitigating the effects of climate-related disasters," he said.

Miyun district, where the "Earth lab" is located, is a national demonstration zone for building an ecological civilization.

In recent years, Miyun has been leading the city's green transition. All buses and taxis have gone electric, and a pilot project for net zero-emission housing has been launched.

Miyun is a symbol of the country's tremendous efforts in climate response, which is regarded as crucial to the success of the global campaign to fight climate change.

As the world's largest developing country, with a population of 1.4 billion, China faces the daunting task of further growing its economy while reducing carbon emissions.

"Despite its relatively low historical cumulative emissions, China has taken a resolute attitude toward reducing carbon emissions, which shows its sense of responsibility as a major country in the world," said Li Yanping, a researcher at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

According to Carbon Brief, a UK-based organization that specializes in the science and policy of climate change, China's cumulative historical CO2 emissions are only half those of the United States.

Across China, governments at all levels are experimenting to find their own ways of reducing emissions.

In Quzhou, Zhejiang province, the local government has launched a "carbon account" system to monitor the carbon emissions of enterprises and individuals.

Based on carbon emission levels, the city classifies enterprises in four categories — dark green, light green, yellow and red — with dark green indicating the lowest emissions level. Incentives are given to enterprises with low emissions.

One of the beneficiaries of the initiative is Tianpeng Group, a pig farm operator. The group has a nine-story building for pig farming. Thanks to the building's low-carbon design, the group has obtained a 20 million yuan ($2.8 million) unsecured loan with low interest rates, which is the country's first "carbon neutrality" loan in the agricultural field.

The building has dramatically reduced the floor space used for producing pigs — from the 20 to 33 hectares of land in the past to 0.66 hectare now.

"This means we have more land to be used for forestation to reduce carbon emissions," said Wang Litong, general manager of Tianpeng Group.

Since the carbon account system was launched in 2021, the city has granted 42.9 billion yuan in loans to low-emitting enterprises, cutting total carbon emissions by 13.8 percent.

Jorgen Randers, co-author of the landmark 1972 report Limits to Growth, said: "In the climate area, the problem still can be solved. But it requires strong, active governmental action. This is not going to be solved by the market or by voluntary action by individuals."

China unveiled its "1+N" system last year, which is the country's top-level design in responding to climate change, with "1" representing a master guideline issued by the central authorities, and "N" standing for specific action plans or policies for different industrial sectors.

"The current ambition of China, if followed by the whole world, is enough to basically solve the (climate) problem," Randers said.

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