NRDC Switchboard: The next five years of clean energy and climate protection in China

• April 1, 2011

China's Wen Jiabao at the World Economic Forum | Photo credit: World Economic Forum on Flickr

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum on Flickr

With the adoption of its Twelfth Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government has cemented key long-term strategies for greening GDP, controlling energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and key pollutants, and capitalizing on the growing low-carbon economy (full Chinese plan). Environment and climate are given the most prominent position ever in a Five Year Plan, aspirations that will be backed up by a number of concrete planning documents over the coming months.

China has agreed to several binding targets important to making this transition. In the Chinese context, “binding” means that provincial and local officials and leaders of state-owned enterprises will be evaluated on their performance in meeting the targets, and will be promoted or penalized accordingly. Also explicitly stated in this plan, responsible departments must make public yearly progress reports toward meeting the key targets of the plan, which include:

  • Decreasing energy intensity (energy consumed per unit GDP) by 16% by 2015.
  • Decreasing carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit GDP) by 17% by 2015.
  • Increasing non-fossil energy as a proportion of primary energy to 11.4% by 2015, from the current 8.3%.
  • Increasing R&D expenditures to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, from the current 1.8%.
  • Decreasing water intensity (water consumed per unit of value-added industrial output) by 30% by 2015.
  • Increasing forest coverage rate to 21.66% and forest stock by 600 million cubic meters by 2015;
  • Decreasing sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (a measure of water pollution) by an additional 8% by 2015 (these were reduced by 14.29% and 12.45% during the 11th Five Year Plan);
  • reducing two new key pollutants, nitrogen oxide and ammonia nitrogen, by 10% by 2015. Reducing heavy metal pollution from industry will also be a key focus of the plan.

With the addition of the binding 17 percent carbon intensity target that will be allocated to each province and locality, China has linked climate change and low-carbon development strategically with its economic vitality. This comes from a sober realization of the perils of “unsustainable economic growth,” which Premier Wen Jiabao cited following the closing session as the reason for broadening economic indicators beyond simply GDP.

Read more at NRDC Switchboard.

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About the Author

Karl Burkart is the Digital Communications Director for the GCCA, the Global Call for Climate Action, and TckTckTck, a network of 400+ diverse organizations working around the world for greater action on the growing problem of climate change. Karl also blogs on technology and the environment for a variety of publications. You can follow him on Twitter @greendig.

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