China, the second-largest economy in the world, has seen rapidly increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in recent years. In 2007 the country overtook the United States to become the largest global emitter of CO2, and its emissions continue to grow. These increasing emissions levels have put China under both international and national scrutiny, particularly as 70 percent of China’s energy comes from coal – a fossil fuel responsible for a host of other environmental impacts, including poor air quality.
Chinese authorities have recognized the urgency of climate change and energy security. In 2011, the Chinese government launched the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the greenest social and economic development blueprint in China to date.1 For the first time, the Plan established clear targets to reduce carbon intensity by 16 to 17 percent from 2005 baseline levels, with a longer-term goal of 40 to 45 percent reductions by 2020. To ensure the country is on track to meet these goals, China has invested heavily in renewable energy development and has been aggressively rolling out solar and wind generation technologies. In the first 10 months of 2013, renewables accounted for more than a half of all new electricity generation capacity.
In addition to renewable energy development, officials are also exploring market-led mechanisms such as emissions trading. In 2013, China announced and implemented pilot carbon trading schemes in seven regions. The heavily industrialized southeastern city of Shenzhen established its trading market in June, which included a total of 635 industrial facilities and 197 large public buildings. During its first 100 days of operation, the market saw a total of 185 transactions, amounting to 113,000 tons of carbon at a value of nearly 8 million yuan (US$1.3 million). The markets in Shanghai and Beijing were established in November, with the remaining soon to follow.
Although it is too soon to tell how effective these early steps will be, China’s performance in the Climate and Energy category demonstrates the tangible results of policies implemented over the last few years that have helped to reduce energy and carbon intensity in the country.
1 National People’s Congress. (2011) Report on the work of the government (Premier Wen Jiabao). English versions available: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/03/05/china-npc-2011-reports-ful.... Last accessed: March 1, 2012.