Keynote Speech by Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China
International Forum of the China EV 100 Annual Forum 2021
16 January, 2021
On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I’m delighted to join you at the China EV100 Forum 2021. Today’s event is especially significant, after a tough 2020 that made the world re-think how we do development. Namely: how to drive growth, while sustaining our society and planet.
Between 1990 and 2019, global CO2 emissions leapt by 62%. And according to the World Meteorological Organization, despite the COVID-19 slowdown, these record greenhouse gas levels have not eased. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that the planet is on track to reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030. The consequences are catastrophic and are already shaping our reality: extreme weather, biodiversity loss and rising sea-levels. If business-as-usual continues, by end of this century, we may cause 3-5 degrees of warming. That would leave Shanghai’s Bund and Pudong area underwater.
Preventing this calls for our global CO2 emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. The good news is, a growing number of countries and regions are committed to cutting emissions. Last September, China pledged to peak emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, a key opportunity for policies to help us stay within the 1.5 to 2.0 degrees threshold.
But we must act now.
Transport is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. So its electrification offers a critical route to achieving climate ambitions and ensuring a liveable planet in future. Currently, China accounts for roughly half of global new energy vehicles (NEVs), leading global stock and sales records for the past 5 years.& Moving forward, further efforts are needed to strengthen and expand the e-transport evolution, in China and worldwide.
I would like to highlight four recommendations to this end:
Firstly, we must look holistically at the carbon footprint of Battery Electric Vehicles. This means monitoring and regulating emissions generated during their entire lifecycle, not just while driving them. That includes emissions released during the production and discarding of batteries.
To bring down carbon and material footprints, we must invest in lowering recycling costs, while strengthening manufacturing regulations. Currently, recycling a lithium battery costs five times as much as producing a new one.
Additionally, an electric car is only truly green when the electricity used to power it comes from renewables, rather than fossil fuels. So, we need clean energy at every stage, to harness the full potential of e-vehicles.
Secondly, we must boost vehicle-grid integration. Two key challenges in boosting renewables in the energy mix are the variability in renewable energy generation; and the distances between where electricity is produced and where it is needed. Maximising energy storage is critical to address this bottleneck. Electric vehicles offer a potential solution: by decentralizing storage through two-way charging with vehicles both drawing and supplying energy to the grid to eventually achieve vehicle-grid integration (VGI).
This requires the infrastructure to implement it, along with consumer participation. That means fundamentally changing people’s driving and parking behaviours: where and when they choose to connect their vehicles, not only to charge, but also to discharge energy to the grid. True VGI will likely require incentives, such as feed-in-tariffs or similar provisions, to ensure the electric fleet of a town, city, or country is plugged in when needed.
Thirdly, New Energy Vehicle development must be integrated within rural revitalisation. Rural China is often more convenient for parking and charging; as well as using distributed renewable energy. This will allow more rural residents to use NEVs, guiding them to e-mobility solutions.
But this is not just about being green; at the heart of rural revitalisation are people. So, as we regulate the phase-out of combustion vehicles, we must ensure policies that enable lower-income families to trade in older cars for EVs. Otherwise, they may lose the mobility they need to earn a living.
The shift to a fully electric transport sector will also affect the thousands, if not millions, who repair these vehicles. Workers must be upskilled to handle new technology, maintenance and recycling, so no one is left behind.
Finally, we must boost hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle (FCV) development. FCVs in China saw a “super year” in 2020, with multiple technology and policy breakthroughs. An inter-ministerial hydrogen strategy – with green hydrogen as the vision – will expand possibilities for FCVs and accelerate China’s decarbonization.
As with BEVs, however, hydrogen energy must come from carbon neutral sources, such as solar or wind, for FCVs to truly help decarbonise mobility.
We must also subsidize and accelerate renewable hydrogen to cut its cost. Not only can hydrogen storage use curtailed renewable energy, thereby avoiding waste; it can also power other high-use sectors, such as industry and buildings.
UNDP stands ready to support the transformation towards carbon neutral transport. Since 2003, we have leveraged our global experience to assist China’s efforts in industrialising and commercialising new energy vehicles, as well as facilitating green mobility. With hydrogen and FCV demonstrations in eight cities across the Jing-Jin-Ji, Yangtze River Delta and Greater Bay Area, along with hydrogen vocational training projects, we have supported policy innovation, supply chain technical assistance and international exchanges.
Climate change will affect everyone, everywhere. So we must work together to respond – and improving e-mobility is vital in this. UNDP sees great potential in working with EV100 to share experiences and lessons learned on e-vehicles globally, through our network across 170 countries and territories.
Today’s event opens a new chapter in helping to curb transport sector emissions following China’s carbon neutrality pledge. And through our continued cooperation, I am confident the road ahead can be green.
 Also need to reach ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.