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What will it take for China to reach carbon neutrality by 2060?

Alright, imagine you're about to start a big adventure, like stepping into a magical world filled with books, new friends, and exciting discoveries. That's what happened to Alex on their first day at university.

Alex had butterflies fluttering in their stomach as they walked through the gates of the university, feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. They looked around and saw so many new faces—some smiling, some looking just as unsure as Alex felt.

Their heart raced as they found their way to the big lecture hall for their first class. The room was huge, with rows of desks and a towering screen at the front. Alex found a seat, feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.

To become carbon neutral by 2060, China will need to install two to four terawatts of solar and wind power, respectively. University of California, San Diego/Michael Davidson

President Xi Jinping has ordered China to create eight or ten times more wind and solar power projects than it presently has in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Major transmission line construction will also be necessary to achieve carbon neutrality.

China land use policies will also have to be more coordinated and focused on a nationwide scale rather than be left to ad hoc decisions by local governments. That’s because 80% of solar power and 55% of wind power will have to be built within 100 miles of major population centers.

These are the conclusions of a new study from researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing and at the University of California San Diego. The team publishes their findings in the Feb. 26, 2024 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We know China has a very ambitious pathway to achieve carbon neutrality. We wanted to find out exactly what that entails,” said Michael Davidson, a senior author of that study and a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

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