Climate Change and Development Context
Since the opening of China’s centrally planned economy in the late 1970’s and its transition to a dynamic market economy, China has sustained an unprecedented pace of economic development. Half a billion people have been lifted out of poverty and China has already achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals. This achievement has come at a price, however, as China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), with per capita emissions near the global average, and the country faces other significant environmental challenges. The frequent occurrence of extreme weather conditions in China has caused thousands of deaths and up to 200 billion Yuan ($32.8 billion) of direct economic loss every year since the 1990s, according to a Chinese report released at the UN climate conference in Warsaw in November 2013.
China’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) addresses the situation by establishing important climate change and energy goals, including targets to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 17 percent; energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 percent; and increasing the rate of forest coverage by 21 percent and expanding the total forest stock by 12.5 million hectares by 2015. The Plan also calls for establishing a domestic carbon market. In April 2013, China’s President stated that China will focus more on the quality and efficiency of economic development to build a “beautiful China,” and will strengthen the construction of an ecological civilization through greater efforts on green development, circular development and low-carbon development and to balance industrial development and green, sustainable development.
Key National Institutions, Policies, and Initiatives
China’s overall approach to climate change was first captured by its National Climate Change Programme (2007) and the White Paper on “China’s Policies and actions for addressing Climate Change,” released by the State Council in 2008. In 2009, in the run up to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen, China announced a domestically binding target to reduce carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. Since 2009, a number of key policies and programs that build on earlier initiatives to reduce energy intensity have been launched to promote low carbon development and support achievement of the carbon intensity target, including:
1) Piloting low carbon provinces and cities
This initiative targets five provinces (Guangdong, Liaoning, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Yunnan) and eight cities (Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Guiyang, and Baoding). The policy calls on these pilot locations to: develop low carbon development plans; establish supporting policies to support low carbon development; establish low-emission industries; establish GHG data collection and management systems; and Promote a low carbon/green lifestyle and consumption model.
2) Developing provincial GHG inventories
In addition to preparing the national inventory as part of its reporting requirements to the UNFCCC, in November 2010 China released a “Notice of Starting the Compilation of Provincial Inventory of GHG Emission” notifying the localities to: Identify a department within the pilot provinces and cities to take responsibility for selecting experts to carry out the GHG inventory work; begin collecting related data and information; complete the provincial level 2005 GHG inventory for submission to the NDRC by 2011; and provide provincial-level GHG inventory guidelines to local governments and technical institutions.
3) Pilot carbon emission trading schemes
In October 2011 China released a “Notice” to initiate domestic pilot emission trading schemes (ETS) that: Identifies seven pilot locations in two provinces (Hubei and Guangdong) and five municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen); establish a leadership team to coordinate and raise resources to conduct the pilots; Develop the pilot ETS implementation plan; research the regulatory measures, rules, total caps, allocations, monitoring and GHG registry systems; develop the necessary supporting environment. The ETS pilots should be demonstrated during the 12th FYP, with a nation-wide ETS expected to be established by the end of the period. To date the first scheme has been established in Shenzhen and two pilot schemes were launched in Beijing and Shanghai in November 2013.
4) Bilateral and sub-national agreements
Recent bilateral engagement with the United States includes an agreement to phase down HFCs. Through the agreement, the two countries will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol and other forms of multilateral cooperation to achieve a global phase down of the production and consumption of HFCs. This has the potential to reduce up to 90 Gt of CO2e by 2050, equal to approximately two years’ of current global GHG emissions.
At the subnational level, the NDRC Vice Chairman and the Governor of California signed a MOU to work together on sharing low carbon strategies and to create joint ventures on clean technologies. Among the activities that the agreement seeks to enhance: mitigating carbon emissions; strengthening performance standards to control GHGs; designing and implementing carbon emissions trading systems; sharing information on policies and programs to strengthen low carbon development; exchanging personnel and jointly organizing workshops and training; and researching clean and efficient energy technologies.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is China’s key institution for domestic and international climate change affairs. The NDRC Vice Chairman is the country’s lead climate change negotiator and China’s top official overseeing climate change positions. The NDRC’s Department of Climate Change coordinates and implements China’s climate change policies and programs.
The National Center of Climate Change Strategy Research and International Cooperation Center (NCSC), a public research institution, serves as a governmental think tank for climate change strategy and as a platform for international climate change cooperation. Its main responsibilities include organizing studies on strategies, planning, policies, and regulations and conducting carbon emissions trading and CDM project management. It is also responsible for national climate change data management and GHG inventories at all levels, among other responsibilities.
World Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/country/china accessed 30 January 2014)
UNDP: http://www.kh.undp.org/content/china/en/home/countryinfo/ (accessed 30 January 2014)
China Eyes Green Plan for 2030, available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2013-11/18/content_17113903.htm
China Human Development Report 2009/10: China and a Sustainable Future, Towards a Low Carbon Economy & Society, available at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/national/asiathepacific/china/Chine_2010.pdf
China National Human Development Report 2013, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/national/asiathepacific/china/China%20NHDR%202013_EN_final.pdf
Lewis, Joanna. Energy and Climate Goals of China’s 12th Five Year Plan, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, available at http://www.c2es.org/international/key-country-policies/china
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