Chinese Premier Wen Leads New Energy Policy Coordinating Body

The Chinese government announced today that Premier Wen Jiabao will lead a new Energy Coordinating body. Wen will chair the committee, which will include Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang and ministers of 21 different departments.

While this announcement signifies the strongly felt need for better coordination on energy policy, because China already had an Energy Leading Group at the State Council (Premier and Vice Premier) level, the practical implications of this re-organization are unclear. This new body seems to be somewhat higher-ranking, but is still a coordinating body, rather than a “super energy ministry,” as had been rumored two years ago. Responsibility for energy and climate policy will still be somewhat divided between the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) – whose Chairman Zhang Ping now heads the secretariat for the new body – and the National Energy Administration (NEA), whose Administrator Zhang Guobao will be Zhang Ping’s deputy in the new secretariat.

In reality, energy policy will still need to be negotiated among competing interests – as is the case in most countries. China’s key players include both the NDRC and NEA, but also include the major energy companies and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Newer voices include the Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development (MOHURD), which has become an essential player in energy conservation, urban planning and transportation policy. Agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, and the State Forestry Administration as well as the leadership of coastal and drought-prone provinces are among those that represent interests that will be affected by climate change. As a result, energy and climate policy will continue to be negotiated at the State Council level, and so this new announcement’s main import is the continuing engagement of Premier Wen, who led China’s delegation to Copenhagen last month.