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2022-07-26 09:03:39

China’s climate commitments are making their way into the country’s university classrooms.

China’s top education authority has approved a carbon economy major in an attempt to expand the country’s talent pool interested in sectors related to the climate and environment, the Ministry of Education said earlier this month. For now, the prestigious Renmin University of China in Beijing is the first and only academic institution to offer the master’s program, though enrollment for the course is currently unclear.

The two-year graduate degree aims to cover topics such as carbon policy planning, carbon markets and trading, and carbon emission management, according to media reports. Students are expected to get in-depth knowledge about carbon neutrality and energy transition, regional low-carbon planning, and carbon finance.

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, plans to reach its carbon emissions peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The country is introducing a raft of policy measures, as well as education and employment that would support the government’s requirements of achieving the goals.

Last March, authorities announced a new job position for a carbon emissions manager for the first time, attracting a surge in applicants. Data from recruitment platform Liepin showed new jobs in the carbon neutrality sector saw a jump of more than 400% from last year in the first quarter of 2022.

However, only a few universities and colleges offer a curriculum related to carbon neutrality or carbon markets. The specialized talent training programs mainly rely on employers and third-party institutions, with the latter often leading to scams luring people to join fraudulent certification courses.

“Many industry insiders have majored in environment or energy and transferred to the carbon-related field. We often learn while working,” Liu Kai, executive director of consultancy SinoCarbon Education and Training, told Sixth Tone. “The more specialized talent training would allow students to accumulate a knowledge base before they start to work.”

Last year, the Ministry of Education published plans to accelerate building the carbon neutral talent training system in universities, including world-class majors related to carbon neutrality in five to 10 years. It published a more detailed plan in April, urging universities to ramp up the creation of teaching resources in carbon finance and carbon trading.

Earlier this year, education authorities also allowed four domestic universities — Chongqing University, China University of Geosciences, China University of Petroleum, and China University of Mining and Technology — to set up an undergraduate engineering major focusing on carbon capture, conversion, sequestration, and utilization. The schools are expected to start enrolling students for the degree this fall.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A technician checks solar panels on a rooftop in Qingdao, Shandong province, May 4, 2022. VCG)