China’s climate action for the upcoming 5 years

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When China published its new Five-Year Plan I was quite curious what the plans regarding sustainability would be. The plan is designed to guide the country’s economic and social development from 2016 through 2020. It became apparent that environmental issues are an large integral component of China’s development and targets to address several of China’s sustainability challenges. The plan will strengthen China’s efforts to shift to a more sustainable model of growth and meet its climate commitments. I will provide a short overview of the plan’s efforts for sustainability. 

Previously, China’s economic growth came from traditional engines such as coal industry and infrastructure construction. These types of services meant more air pollution and greenhouse emission. China’s plan is to have this growth coming from services which will result in less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The plan poses the new target of an 18 percent reduction in carbon-intensity from 2015 levels. This will be a first step towards achieving its target from the Paris Agreement pledge to reduce carbon intensity by 60 to 65 percent in 2030. Furthermore, the plan also contains the goal to reduce energy intensity by 15 percent.

In this 13th Five-Year Plan, it is the first time that the plan includes quantified guidance on energy consumption control, affirming that China should limit its energy use to five billion tons of standard coal equivalent. Being the largest source of carbon emissions, limiting energy consumption is an important component of China’s implementation of its Paris commitments. Besides the growing awareness from the international world, China’s efforts on sustainable development and climate action are driven by strong national interests, not only from citizens but also China’s leaders who recognize the economic benefits of clean energy. Today more than ever, China sees clean energy as a new driver for the economy to continue its rapid economic growth.

The Five-Year plan contains the broad contours of its policies and efforts towards a more sustainable society. However, the details of China’s low-carbon transition still need to be released in the follow-up plans in the upcoming months and years. China still faces major challenges regarding sustainability and the plan underscores the fact that the country is no longer merely concerned with the pace of growth, but with the quality of growth as well. The plans on energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy deployments, limits on coal and energy use, carbon pricing and more following the national Five-Year-Plan will provide further opportunities to make progress on the efforts made in Paris.

This blog is written by Frederiek van Lieshout