As the Chinese leadership has reiterated the country's carbon emission goals on multiple occasions, some may wonder how the world's largest developing country can fulfill its promise. The answer lies in China's institutional strengths including top-level design, strong leadership and economic incentive.
To begin with, China's political system, which is good at top-level planning and implementation, will ensure its carbon reduction goals can be fulfilled. Once decisions and goals are set, they are incorporated into the overall national development program, turned into feasible action plans and delivered faithfully by local governments and competent departments.
China's carbon-cutting goals are a major strategic decision made after much deliberation. One year after its introduction, they have been frequently appearing in China's national and regional development plans and policies, such as the government work report as well as the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and the long-range objectives through the year 2035.
The latest example of the country's efforts came at the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26), as China announced that it would foster a green, low-carbon and circular economic system at a faster pace, press ahead with industrial structure adjustment, and rein in the irrational development of energy-intensive and high-emission projects.
The strong leadership of the country serves as another cornerstone for delivering on its promise. As demonstrated by the widely-acknowledged achievements made in China's fight against the COVID-19 and the die-hard extreme poverty under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Chinese society was highly efficient in pooling resources to concentrate efforts to undertake those tasks.
Guided and coordinated by the central government, good visions and methods that were successful in one region can be swiftly copied, adjusted and promoted in other parts of the vast country, ensuring the experience in development and reform can be used to the maximum.
In addition, China has strong economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions. The massive transition of the Chinese economy to a low carbon one will see new jobs created, relevant technological innovation advanced and the competitiveness of domestic enterprises promoted.
While retiring outdated production facilities and high energy-consuming enterprises to cut emissions at the source might have an immediate impact on some local economies, industrial upgrading and decarbonizing can drive China's economic growth and make it healthier and more sustainable in the longer term.
Anyone who knows China well is sure that the country is serious about reducing carbon emissions and pursuing green development. But the international community should also recognize that for a developing country with a population of over 1.4 billion that has not completed industrialization or urbanization, efforts such as the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the supporting policy measures that China has adopted voluntarily have not been easy.
There are of course challenges for China, which has only 30 years between carbon peak to carbon neutrality, the shortest in the world history, to deliver on its promise. But given the institutional strengths China has, the country will realize its carbon reduction goals and any worries about it failing to do so is unnecessary.