Table of Contents:
- Energy and Emissions
- Renewable and Alternative Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Coal for Electricity
- Carbon Capture and Storage
- Measurement and Compliance
- Development, Economics and Energy
- Policy and Governance
- Trade and Competitiveness
- US-China Cooperation
Energy and Emissions
Q: Is China the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter?
A: China overtook the United States in 2007 as the world’s leading annual emitter of greenhouse gases. China now produces over 20% of annual global CO2 emissions, slightly ahead of the United States, also around 20%. Moreover, China is expected to account for the bulk of new emissions growth in the coming decades. Read more…
Q: How do China’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions compare to the United States?
A: China’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are only one-quarter of U.S. levels due to its large population (currently about 1.3 billion) and high rate of poverty (roughly one-third of the population earns less than $2 a day). In 2006, the average American produced 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide; the average Chinese, just 5 tons. Read more…
Q: What are the sources of China’s greenhouse gas emissions?
A: China’s greenhouse gas emissions mainly come from burning fossil fuels coal, oil, and gas. The industrial sector accounts for 70% of energy use in China, while residential/transportation/agriculture is only 30%. For the U.S., where the industrial sector is smaller but more people drive cars and own big homes, the reverse is true — private consumption is the bulk of energy demand. Read more…
Q: Has China set a target for curbing greenhouse gas emissions?
A: Yes. In November 2009, China announced to the world its intention to reduce CO2 emissions intensity (emissions per unit GDP) by 40-45% in 2020, compared to 2005 levels. This target is expected to be binding domestically in China, and passed into national legislation and formally incorporated into the upcoming 12th 5-Year Plan. Read more…
Renewable and Alternative Energy
Q: How much renewable energy is part of China’s fuel mix?
A: Currently, China gets 7% of its total energy from renewable sources, including hydropower, wind, nuclear, solar and biomass. Official targets aim to increase that share to at least 15% by 2020. Read more…
Q: How much hydropower does China produce and consume?
A: China is the largest hydropower generator in the world, with about 150 GW currently, and a target of 300 GW for 2020. Read more…
Q: …wind power?
A: China ranks 4th in the world in installed wind power capacity, with 12.2 GW in 2008. It also is the world’s fastest-growing installer of wind. Read more…
A: China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of solar cells (PVs), although more than 90% are exported. New targets aim to greatly expand the level of domestic solar power — which currently is less than 1% of electricity generation. Read more…
A: China currently uses nuclear power to generate about 2% of the nation’s electricity. Current plans aim to increase generating capacity from about 9 GW to more than 40 GW. In March 2008, China’s State Energy Bureau suggested a target of 5% of the nation’s electricity from nuclear by 2020. Read more…
Q: What are China’s goals for energy efficiency?
A: China has set a target of reducing the energy intensity of its economy 20% by 2010 from 2005 levels. Energy intensity is the measure of how much energy is consumed to produce a unit of GDP. Read more…
Q: What steps is China taking to reduce energy consumption?
A: The Chinese government has closed hundreds of older, less-efficient plants, implemented new building codes, and set targets for China’s 1000 largest enterprises to cut their energy use. These policies are supported by carrots such as financial grants for efficiency investments, and “sticks” such as the incorporation of energy targets into local officials’ performance review criteria. Read more…
Q: What has been the impact of China’s energy conservation policies?
A: In 2006, China’s energy intensity decreased by 1.8% — the first improvement since 2001. That gain in energy intensity was followed in 2007 by a 4% improvement and, in 2008, by a further reduction of 4.6%. Preliminary statistics suggests efficiency gains may have been greater in 2009. China could well be on track to meet its 20% reduction target for 2010, which would reduce warming emissions by 1.5 billion metric tons CO2 equivalent. Read more…
Q: Why are China’s forests important to climate change?
A: Fifty years ago, China’s declining forests were a major contributor of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere due to clearing, but now they are a growing carbon storehouse. In 2000, for instance, scientists estimate that China’s forests stored enough carbon to offset 21% of its fossil fuel emissions. The deputy head of China’s State Forestry Administration recently estimated that more than 5 billion tons of CO2 emissions were saved over the past 25 years via programs to replant trees, manage forests and avoid deforestation. Read more…
Q: What is China doing to improve forest cover?
A: Since 1981, China has planted more than 40 billion trees, doubling forest cover. China’s forests now cover 175 million hectares — an area the size of Alaska. Currently China is investing $80 billion into Six Key Forestry Programs, with new targets aiming for 26% forest cover by 2050, and 40 million new hectares (over 2005 levels) by 2020. Read more…
Q: What is the “1000 Enterprises” Program?
A: China’s “Top-1000 Energy-Consuming Enterprises Program” focuses on energy efficiency improvements in large enterprises that make up 33% of China’s energy use and a similar share of energy-related CO2 emissions. More than halfway through a 5-year effort, the companies are on track to meet — and exceed — their goal to save 100 million tons of coal equivalent. Read more…
Q: What is the “10 Key Projects” Program?
A: The “Key Projects” target technological improvements in ten areas: some projects aim to improve industry’s use of energy, and are linked to another of China’s major energy-saving initiatives, the “Top-1000 Energy Consuming Enterprises Program.” Others target residential and government energy use or specific technologies like green lighting. Read more…
Q: What transportation challenges is China facing?
A: The bike is giving way to the bus, the train and the car in China. By 2025, the rapidly urbanizing nation — once known for its throngs of pedalers — could have 250 million cars on its roadways. Building infrastructure sufficient to keep up with transportation demand is one challenge; another is curbing growth in greenhouse gases and fuel demand accompanying the vehicle boom. Read more…
Q: What policies is China implementing to put its transportation sector on a low-emissions path?
A: China is increasing auto fuel economy standards, investing in mass transit to boost the proportion of urban commuters using public transit, and converting public buses and government fleets to less-polluting fuels, as well as deploying incentives aimed at making Chinese companies leaders in manufacturing electric vehicles. Read more…
Coal for Electricity
Q: How much coal does China use?
A: About 80% of China’s electricity comes from coal. In 2008, China burned nearly 3 billion tons of coal, more than double the amount of coal used in the United States, the world’s second largest consumer. Coal power maintains a 3-1 cost advantage over the next cheapest fossil fuel, and it is a domestic resource. Read more…
Q: How much of China’s GHG emissions are from coal?
A: Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, emitting more CO2 per unit of energy than any comparable fuel. In 2008, Chinese coal was responsible for emitting 5,381 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent out of 6,533 mmt total (over 80%), according to the DOE’s Energy Information Administration. Emissions from Chinese coal are thus higher than total European GHG emissions from all sources in 2008. Read more…
Q: What are some other problems with coal?
A: Coal production is associated with serious pollution, public health and worker-safety problems. Also, despite the furious pace of construction, electricity demand has continued to outstrip supply in many regions, leading to disruptive brownouts and blackouts. Read more…
Carbon Capture and Storage
Q: Why is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) important to China?
A: The idea of CCS is to “capture” and store CO2 emissions underground so they do not reach the atmosphere to cause global warming. As a country that relies on coal-fired power plants, a stationary source of emissions, CCS technology could be useful to helping China cut carbon emissions while meeting energy demand growth. Some drawbacks of CCS are that it is currently expensive, the technology is unproven on a large scale, and it has an “energy penalty” that lowers plant efficiency. Read more…
Q: Is China using Carbon Capture and Storage Technology?
A: Though some test projects are in the works, CCS is not yet commercially deployed in China. However, many new gasified coal power plants that China is building are considered “CCS-ready” in that they emit a concentrated stream of CO2, making eventual capture and storage of that carbon more economical. Read more…
Q: Are the U.S. and China cooperating on developing/deploying CCS?
A: China and the U.S. are cooperation on CCS on a number of fronts. U.S. NGOs are working on the ground with the Chinese to identify underground capacity for carbon storage. The U.S government has made CCS a priority for bilateral cooperation, signing an MOU with Beijing in November 2009 to jointly develop advanced coal technologies, including capture and storage. Read more…
Measurement and Compliance
Q: Will China be able to enforce its energy and climate policy goals?
A: The Chinese government’s ability to enforce policies, laws and regulations varies considerably, depending both on the complexity of the task and the political commitment to effective enforcement. Recently, the Chinese government has scaled-up efforts to enforce laws and procedures related to energy data and compliance, implementing new transparency measures and incorporating data reporting into official promotion criteria. Read more…
Q: How reliable is Chinese data on energy and emissions?
A: Although China’s data records are often more “raw” than in developed countries, and there have been issues with misreporting in the past, energy data collection systems are improving. U.S. researchers note that although China’s data on energy and emissions can be difficult to “untangle,” doing so is possible with a reasonable level of confidence in the results, especially at the aggregate level. Compared to some other sectors, energy data in China can be relatively easy to track with a limited number of sources, many of which are stationary. Read more…
Q: What steps is China taking to improve its measurement and compliance capabilities?
A: High-level directives from China’s State Council instructing industries and provinces to report energy use data semi-annually have signaled an increased focus on accurate statistical collection. The U.S. EPA is also working on the ground with China’s ministry in charge of climate change, energy and economic planning to create greenhouse gas inventories in support of China’s reporting responsibilities under the UN Climate Change Convention. Read more…
Development, Economics and Energy
Q: How are China’s energy use and economic growth related?
A: From 1980 to 2000, China quadrupled the size of its economy while just doubling total energy consumption. This trend reversed in the early 2000s, however, as energy demand grew faster than GDP. Now, numbers indicate that policies to slow energy demand growth once again are having an impact.
Q: What future development challenges will alter China’s emissions trajectory?
A: An unprecedented rate of urbanization — analysts expect that China will have to prepare for an urban population of 1 billion by 2025 — will affect China’s emissions path. Sprawling, inefficient development would exacerbate efforts to curb emissions, while smart urban growth with energy-efficient urban transport and greener residential and commercial buildings could actually help reduce per-capita energy use and emissions. Read more…
Policy and Governance
Q: What drives Chinese policy-making on climate change?
A: Although senior Chinese leaders have said that climate change poses significant political, economic, diplomatic and energy security risks, there are competing views on how to reduce those risks while promoting development, securing energy supplies, and maintaining social stability. It is a challenge no emerging economy has previously faced: raising standards of living while limiting greenhouse emissions. Read more…
Q: What governance challenges is China facing?
A: Tensions between the central government and local officials, who are more inclined to deliver rapid economic growth in their jurisdiction than to enforce environmental controls, is a recurring theme. As in the United States, many of the challenges arise where the demands of economic development and energy conservation collide. Nevertheless, China is moving ahead to reconcile these challenges with steps such as for the first time incorporating energy conservation targets, in addition to economic development targets, into local officials’ performance review and promotion criteria. Read more…
Q: Does China need a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions?
A: China’s financial and governance systems are different from the U.S., and many analysts have noted that in China’s underdeveloped financial system, a complex cap-and-trade system may be inappropriate. China has used a set of market-based and command-and-control policy tools, including targets and quotas, financial incentives, and industrial closures to enforce climate-related goals. Read more…
Trade and Competitiveness
Q: Will climate legislation in the United States result in the transfer of carbon-intensive jobs to China?
A: For most U.S. industries, carbon costs would not be a significant enough portion of manufacturing costs to cause dislocation. While policymakers often cite concerns that China will achieve unfair advantages in their export capacity to U.S. markets if the U.S. enacts emissions limits, it is important to note that only 14 percent of cement, 7 percent of steel, 3 percent of aluminum, 4 percent of paper, and less than 1 percent of basic chemicals imported into the United States come from China. The majority of these GHG-intensive products produced in China are also consumed domestically. Read more…
Q: If the United States adopts a cap-and-trade system, are border tariffs on Chinese imports a good idea to maintain a fair playing field?
A: Cost-containment mechanisms in legislative proposals — including allowances — could reasonably protect industries that might otherwise be affected as a result of climate policy, without the need for unilateral trade measures on Chinese goods. Unilateral trade measures are unlikely to guard effectively against loss of competitiveness and could raise costs for “downstream” U.S. industries. Read more…
Q: Would border adjustments encourage China to take more aggressive action to reduce emissions?
A: Trade measures are unlikely to spur climate policy strengthening in other countries such as China. International agreements to reduce industrial emissions from key sectors — whether through product standards, emissions targets or taxes — could be more successful in addressing competitiveness concerns and reducing emissions than unilateral trade measures. Read more…
Q: How are the U.S. and China cooperating on energy and climate change?
A: The United States and China have engaged for over 30 years in a wide range of scientific, business and government collaborations aimed at increasing energy efficiency and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Congressional action will continue to play a critical role in catalyzing and sustaining joint efforts. Read more…
Q: What is the role of climate and energy in the U.S.-China relationship?
A: Cooperation on clean technology development and deployment is considered an area where the U.S. and China can capitalize on shared interests, build trust, and make concrete public benefits for the globe. Further collaboration on energy and climate should be “a pillar” of the U.S.-China relationship, senior officials from both nations agreed in a July 2008 Memorandum of Understanding that called for pursuing cooperation in fields “where joint expertise, resources, research capacity and combined market size can accelerate progress.” Read more…
|Notes and References|
i Rosen and Houser, 2007, “China Energy: A Guide for the Perplexed,” p. 9.; WRI, Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) version 6.0. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2009. Available at: http://cait.wri.org.
ii US Energy Information Agency, “International Energy Statistics,” http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3.cfm?tid=90&pid=44&aid=8|
iii World Resources Institute (WRI). CCS Guidelines: Guidelines for Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport, and Storage. Washington, DC: WRI.|
iv Summarized from remarks of Dr. Mark Levine (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) at December 2nd ChinaFAQs conference. |
v Deborah Seligsohn, 2009 "US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and China Sign Memorandum of Cooperation on Greenhouse Gas Inventories,” on www.ChinaFAQs.org. |