A Call for Absolute Carbon Cap in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan

Spotlight Activity: A Call for Absolute Carbon Cap in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan

At the recent Global Climate Summit, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment released a review on the effect of policies addressing climate change and other environmental challenges the country is facing. Looking ahead, China is already working on a new set of targets to address climate change which will find entry into the 14th Five-Year-Plan. (http://english.mee.gov.cn/News_service/news_release/201909/t20190917_734051.shtml) 

In the National Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement of 2015, China committed to peak its carbon emissions around 2030, or potentially earlier, and to achieve 20% non-fossil energy as a proportion of primary energy supply by 2030. It also committed to CO2 emissions per unit of GDP to be 60-65% lower than in 2005.

The numbers that China presented are encouraging and show that policies regulating emissions, environmental effluence, forestry, energy efficiency, and those encouraging innovative technologies are starting to see effects. For example, by the end of 2018 China’s carbon emission intensity had decreased by 45.8% compared with the level in 2005, despite growing GDP. From 2016 to 2018, China’s energy consumption per unit of GDP decreased by 11.35%, saving about 540 million tons of standard coal equivalent. In 2018, China’s total installed power capacity of renewables exceeded 728 GW. Clean energy accounted for 22.1% of the total energy consumption mix, or 7.6% higher than that of 2012. Coal accounted for about 59% in the total energy consumption mix, or 9.5% lower than that of 2012. By 2018, China had phased out more than 800 million tons of coal production capacity.  (http://english.mee.gov.cn/News_service/news_release/201909/t20190917_734051.shtml)

China is likely to peak its CO2 emissions well in advance of 2030 and achieve its non-fossil target by 2030 if it consequently pursues implementation of all relevant current policies, successfully concludes the power-sector reform, and fully implements a national emissions-trading system (ETS) for the power and major industrial sectors after 2020.


Yet, a number of issues still need to be addressed: overall CO2 levels continue to rise as production and GDP are rising. Climate relevant legislation only includes CO2 into the GHG, but excludes other equally damaging gases. China’s NDC defines in which year CO2 emissions are to peak, however it is more relevant to specify at what level CO2 emissions have to peak in order to achieve a realistic zero emission target by 2050. More urgent action is needed to achieve the 1.5 Degree Celsius goal demanded in the IPPC report.  A recent report by the innovative Green Development Program (iGDP), a non-governmental Chinese think tank, calls on the Chinese administration to add a specific Climate Change law that includes all GHGs and an absolute carbon cap to complement the ongoing roll-out of the Emissions Trading System into China’s 14th 5-year-plan (FYP). The FYP is under preparation and will set the guardrails for China’s next phase of development from 2020 to 2025. Stronger, legally binding, and enforceable climate legislation will be a means to reign in and reduce absolute emissions. (http://www.igdp.cn/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-09-19-IGDP-Report-EN-Introducing-a-Carbon-Cap-in-the-14th-FYP.pdf)   

Status: Right Direction

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and ensuing laws and regulations on environmental policy have had a definite effect in accelerating the mitigation of environmental damage brought about by China’s rapid economic development of the past 20 years. Moving forward however, specific legislation on climate change is needed in addition to current environmental policy. The 14th Five-Year-Plan offers a strategic tool to include specific provisions. At the same time, effective implementation will depend on ensuing interpretation and formulation of concrete regulations not only for CO2 but also other GHG and on their enforceability. 

Take Action

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

During the period of validity of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the country has made great strides to address and mitigate many of the environmental problems that emerged in the wake of rapid economic development. We also commend China for having underwritten the Paris Agreement. Moving ahead we hope to see even more concrete policies in the 14th Five-Year Plan specifically addressing climate change such as a cap on absolute carbon emissions. We hope that a cap on absolute emissions will spur innovation and new technology to reform emission producing sectors such as energy generation, industrial production or transportation. 

Send Action Alert Message to:

Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China  

Website to leave message: http://www.mee.gov.cn/hdjl/bzxxzs_1/

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