An analysis of China’s key climate targets and the steps China is taking to meet them.
Latest from ChinaFAQs
The United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, have been cooperating on climate change and clean energy for several decades. Since 2009, this cooperation has been greatly enhanced and expanded, resulting in thousands of people from both countries working together to do collaborative research, to share experiences and information, and to develop commercial ventures to deploy clean energy technology.
Given the health risks posed by air pollution, it is easy to understand why the Chinese government wants to address this problem. However, the dilemma is that some steps to clean up air pollution can actually contribute to global warming.
While Chinese air pollution has become world famous, over the last couple of years there has been a slowly growing awareness that the Chinese government is working hard to reduce it, and in fact in the last five years pollution levels have been falling. What has not yet come to world attention, and in fact, few Chinese have really focused on, is that China has the potential to become the world leader in standard setting, at least in the two most polluting sectors, power and oil and gas. What this means is that China is now or soon will be demanding new technologies and new solutions to reduce air pollution, and thus its regulatory demands will become a driver of innovation.
- As of 2011, buildings accounted for 28% of China’s energy consumption. Upward pressures on building energy use include population and economic growth, urbanization, and rising living standards.
- China has adopted a series of domestic policies, including building energy codes, policies and incentives based on green building ratings, and building retrofit programs, to increase the energy efficiency of buildings.
- China’s building codes could reduce building energy use by 13-22% and CO2 emissions by 14-20% from business-as-usual by the end of this century, depending on their stringency and coverage.
- China’s nationally determined contribution for the Paris Agreement and 13th Five Year Plan indicate stronger action on building energy efficiency.
- Building efficiency policies have created a market in China for energy-efficient materials and products, which U.S. companies are poised to help supply.
On September 3rd, 2016, the United States and China formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate change. The announcement came at a bilateral meeting between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping on Saturday, ahead of the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou, China. The announcement provides a major boost in the momentum behind the effort needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force, which is likely to happen before the end of 2016. In order for the agreement to enter into force, a total of 55 countries representing 55% of global GHG emissions must join. China and the United States are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for a combined 38% of global emissions.
When it was first announced in late 2014, China’s climate pledge was a bold and unprecedented step that gave new confidence to global efforts to mitigate climate change. This pledge, enshrined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, commits the country to peak its emissions at latest by 2030 through steady reductions in carbon intensity and deployment of non-fossil energy. As the world’s largest energy user and emitter, and second largest economy, China’s move placed a significant dent in global emissions projections at the time.
Today, the combination of China’s economic slowdown and proactive government realignment of internal priorities toward more sustainable growth has led to lower projections of the country’s emissions trajectory. The question is no longer whether or not China will be able to meet its pledge—indeed, a peak sooner than 2030 looks well within reach, suggesting China’s climate pledge was both prudent and credible.