How China became the world’s leader on renewable energy

How China became the world’s leader on renewable energy

Isabel Hilton writes:

Last November, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry shook hands on a pledge to triple renewable energy globally by 2030. It was hailed as a welcome revival of climate cooperation between the world’s biggest and second-biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and offered hope that the two veteran climate negotiators had found a way through a blizzard of negative diplomatic exchanges to keep alive the prospects for greater global ambition on tackling climate change.

In one key sector essential to that ambition, however, the Chinese government can argue, with some justification, that it is China, not the United States, that is in the lead. In a world in which national climate targets are being missed, the speed and scale of expansion in China’s installed renewable capacity is unmatched.

In 2020, for example, China pledged to reach 1,200 gigawatts of renewables capacity by 2030, more than double its capacity at that time. At its present pace, it will meet that target by 2025, and could boast as much as 1,000 gigawatts of solar power alone by the end of 2026, an achievement that would make a substantial contribution to the 11,000 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity that the world needs to meet the 2030 targets of the Paris Agreement. Fossil fuels now make up less than half of China’s total installed generation capacity, a dramatic reduction from a decade ago when fossil fuels accounted for two-thirds of its power capacity.

When the International Energy Authority issued its assessment of the pledge to triple renewables globally by 2030, it pointed out that the 50 percent increase in global renewable installations in 2023 was largely driven by China. In 2022, China installed roughly as much solar photovoltaic capacity as the rest of the world combined, then went on in 2023 to double new solar installations, increase new wind capacity by 66 percent, and almost quadruple additions of energy storage. [Continue reading…]

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