China Policy Recommendations

Spotlight Activity: China Policy Recommendations

China has been committed to peak its carbon emission and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 20% by 2030. With the current policies, it is estimated that China is on track to meet these goals. However, China’s NDC is not ambitious enough to limit the warming below 1.5 °C as required by the Paris Agreement unless other countries make greater efforts.

Currently, policies that benefit CO2 emissions reductions are not fully or effectively implemented. There are about seventeen influential policies for limiting CO2 emissions to date. (Gallagher et al, 2019) The six policies that are frequently cited are: 

  • Feed-in tariffs for renewable energy
  • Energy efficiency standards for power plants and motor vehicles
  • Non-fossil energy targets
  • Mandated caps on coal consumption
  • Energy efficiency standards for buildings and equipment
  • The key enterprise program for energy efficiency. 

However, the discrepancy between the policies designed and the implementation of the policies creates a gap that limits China’s ability to support the Paris Agreement. 

China will achieve its promised 2020 and 2030 emission reduction pledges as they presently stand. However, neither of these targets are compatible with limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 °C. In order to reach the 1.5 °C goal, China needs to reduce its carbon emissions to below 8399 MtCO2e/a. The successful conclusion of power-sector reform, and the full implementation of a national emission trading system after 2020 are important goals for China to achieve in order to be able to support the goals of the Paris Agreement

Policy Recommendations

  1. Complete Power Sector Reform

To do this China needs to (1) severely restrict and ultimately eliminate coal as its main energy source, and (2) expand its program of subsidies and quotas for the renewable energy sector. China has stated it will reach a national share of non-fossil fuel to 20% by 2030. This goal should be attainable with China’s existing program of renewable energy subsidies being implemented at the provincial level. Subsidizing renewable energy is a priority as it reduces the importance of coal as the major energy provider. 

However, in order to become 1.5 degrees compliant, a rapid decrease of coal usage as a primary energy source is a necessity. The exploration of new coal sites in Shanxi province and the importation of more coal after 2017 are going to create a large amount of emissions and should be discouraged.

2. Full Implementation of the National Emission Trading System (NETS) after 2020

The full implementation of the ETS system not only requires a transparency of carbon data but also needs to be adapted to t local scenarios. In 2013 and 2014, China started to implement a pilot National Emission Trading System in seven provinces. The pilot included the cement, electricity, heat, petroleum and oil extraction industries. In each province the pilot was designed locally by a combination of representatives from provincial and municipal Development and Reform Commission, local emission trading exchanges,and thought leaders in universities and think tanks.

 In the 13th Five Year Plan, 2016 – 2020, China is scaling-up the ETS system and testing it on a national level. Learning from the pilot trials, it is found that the implementation of ETS locally is the key to obtain accurate carbon data. Only then will the use of a marketplace for carbon reduce carbon emission efficiently. 

China needs to evaluate lessons learned from its piloting of the National Emissions Trading System, and sully implement the system from 2019 to 2030. A full implementation of NETS will greatly help reduce emissions and make China 1.5 degrees compliant.

Activity Ranking: *** Moving Forward

China has the opportunity to have its greenhouse gas emission levels by 1.5 degrees compliant which would enable it to be fully supportive of the Paris Agreement. However, in order to do so it needs to fully implement existing policies, especially by completing its power sector reform and fully implementing its national emissions trading system.

Take Action

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below. 

Dear National Development and Reform Commission,

We would really like you to continue your great work to fully implement the policies China has put in place to reduce emissions and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, we would recommend you take steps to bring greenhouse gas emissions to below 8399 MtCO2e/a by 2030 in order to support the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do this we recommend that you fully implement your efforts to complete power sector reform and fully implement the national emissions trading system. This will enable China to play a global leadership role in efforts to prevent the disastrous effects of global warming.

Thank you!

Send Action Alert Message to:

Su Wei

National Focal Point for UNFCCC

Director General 

Department of climate change

National Development and Reform Commission

Beijing, People’ s Republic of China

Learn More:

Gallagher, K., Zhang, F., Orvis, R., Rissman, J., & Liu, Q. (2019). Assessing the policy gaps for achieving china’s climate targets in the paris agreement. Nature Communications, 10(1), 1-10. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09159-0

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