Quantcast
Climate

5 Most Important Things to Know About China’s 5-Year Plan

By Geoffrey Henderson, Ranping Song and Paul Joffe

China has officially unveiled its thirteenth Five-Year Plan, which will guide the country's economic and social development from 2016 through 2020. This latest edition builds on progress made over the last five years and makes clear that environmental stewardship is an increasingly integral component of China's development.

Installation of solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs of the Hongqiao Passenger Rail Terminal in Shanghai, China. Photo credit: Jiri Rezac / The Climate Group

The plan lays out targets and measures to address several sustainability challenges—including climate change, air pollution, water, urbanization, transportation and more. The new plan's high-level targets and policies will continue to strengthen China's efforts to shift to a more sustainable model of growth and deliver on its climate commitments.

Here's a look at the highlights and importance of the plan for China's action on energy and climate change:

1. What are the highlights of the plan for energy and climate?

China plans to develop its economy by more than 6.5 percent per year over the next five years. Under the plan, this growth will increasingly come from services—which will rise from 50.5 to 56 percent of the economy by 2020—and more innovative and efficient manufacturing. These sectors typically have lower air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions than China's traditional growth engines, like heavy industry and infrastructure construction.

The plan sets out a new round of targets for the carbon and energy intensity of China's economy. With China's new target for an 18 percent reduction in carbon-intensity from 2015 levels, we estimate that China will actually reduce its carbon intensity 48 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, exceeding its original target of a 40-45 percent reduction by that year. It will also be a first step toward achieving its Paris agreement pledge to reduce carbon intensity 60 to 65 percent by 2030. The plan also includes a goal to reduce energy intensity by 15 percent, suggests that China's most-developed eastern regions will be the first to peak their carbon emissions and builds on efforts to increase China's forest stock.

For the first time, the plan includes quantified guidance on energy consumption control, stating that China should limit its energy use to 5 billion tons of standard coal equivalent. As energy is the largest source of carbon emissions, limiting energy consumption is an important component of China's implementation of its Paris commitments. This guidance seems to be an effort to ensure an upper limit on energy consumption, as there are signs that China's energy use could be lower than 5 billion tons in 2020. Growth in China's energy use has slowed in recent years and China has the potential to achieve its economic goals with less energy through energy efficiency initiatives.

2. Why are these targets important?

The new targets in the plan underscore the fact that the country is no longer merely concerned with the pace of growth, but with the quality of growth. China's efforts on sustainable development and climate action are driven by strong national interests, such as concern about the impacts of climate change, hazardous air pollution and energy security. There's also evidence that China's leaders recognize the economic benefits of clean energy and that new drivers will be required for the economy to continue its rapid economic growth.

To achieve these targets, the plan calls for controlling emissions from energy-intensive industries like power and steel, building a unified national carbon emissions trading market, implementing emissions reporting and verification for key industries and establishing a green finance system, among other measures. The plan also states that China will be actively involved in the global effort to address climate change, including advancing its own contribution and will deepen its bilateral dialogue with other countries. These efforts will provide momentum toward stronger climate action both in China and internationally.

3. What are other signs of China's progress on climate to date?

China has already made substantial progress under the 12th Five-Year Plan, surpassing its targets for energy intensity (down 18.2 percent) and carbon intensity (down 20 percent), according to official figures. Services' share of China's economy has risen in recent years, eclipsing manufacturing's share in 2013. Consumption of coal leveled off in 2014 and output in heavy industries like steel and cement has begun to decline. Further, China is investing in clean energy and installing wind and solar power at world-record levels, making the country the global leader in solar power capacity last year.

4. Does the plan contain all the details?

The Five-Year Plan released this week can be thought of as China's overarching plan, which provides the broad contours of its policies for the next five years. But don't expect all the details of China's low-carbon transition to be apparent in this broad plan. Follow-on plans to be released in the coming months and years will provide more detailed targets and policies for specific provinces and sectors, such as energy.

5. What challenges remain?

Along with the above-mentioned carbon-intensity pledge, China's Paris commitments include a target to peak carbon emissions in 2030 and to make best efforts to peak earlier. While making progress, the country's effort to decouple emissions from economic growth at its present stage of development faces continuing uncertainties. For instance, China's work to further strengthen measures to improve efficiency and reduce demand in buildings and transportation (including through efforts on high-speed rail laid out in the plan) will be important to offset potential emissions growth from China's trends toward increased urbanization and vehicle ownership.

Studies make clear that the commitments made by countries do not go far enough to limit warming to below 2 C and avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. In Paris, countries agreed to come back to the table by 2020 to review their targets. If significant progress were made on addressing remaining challenges during the next five years, then China could be in a position to revise its pledge.

At the same time, the debate over the precise timing of China's emissions peak may be less important than its continuing efforts to build a foundation for deep emissions reductions over the long term. China is continuing to develop and implement measures that can help achieve this goal, such as limits on coal and energy use, energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy deployment and grid integration, carbon pricing and steps to shift toward a cleaner model of development. The energy and other sectoral plans following the national Five-Year Plan will provide further opportunities to make progress on these efforts.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

China Contributes 10% of Human Influence on Climate Change

Worldwide Shift to Renewable Energy Played 'Critical Role' in Stalling Carbon Emissions

Ice Shelf Twice the Size of Manhattan Is About to Break Off From Antarctica

This Scare Tactic Used to Block Environmental Rules Is Getting Old

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E) unearthed three baby loggerheads after a nest inventory at Pawleys Island beach. Lorraine Chow

Sea Turtle Population Rebounding But Many Threats Remain

A new study published in Science Advances has found that most global sea turtles populations are recovering after historical declines.

The results from the analysis suggest that conservation programs actually work, and why we must defend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that protects vulnerable plants and animals, and is currently under attack by political and business interests.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

Baby Rhino Brings New Hope to India’s Manas National Park

A baby rhino spotted alongside its mother in Manas National Park, located in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is an encouraging new sign that the rhino population in the protected area is on the upswing. The mother, named Jamuna, was rescued as a calf from Kaziranga National Park, located about 200 miles east of Manas and raised at the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, a facility that cares for injured or orphaned wild animals run by Wildlife Trust of India/International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Assam Forest Department. She was moved to the Manas in 2008 as part of the country's rhino conservation efforts.

The calf is her second since 2013—a positive indication that despite concerns due to poaching of mature males, rhinos in Manas are reproducing.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Bob Wick, BLM

Navajo Nation Readies Legal Action if Trump Shrinks Bears Ears National Monument

Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could spark a legal battle between the Navajo Nation and the Trump administration.

"We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission," Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation attorney general, told Reuters.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Jilson Tiu / Greenpeace

Nestlé, Unilever, P&G Among Worst Offenders for Plastic Pollution in Philippines Beach Audit

A week-long beach clean up and audit at Freedom Island in Manila Bay has exposed the companies most responsible for plastic pollution in the critical wetland habitat and Ramsar site—one of the worst locations for plastic pollution in the Philippines.

The Greenpeace Philippines and #breakfreefromplastic movement audit, the first of its kind in the country, revealed that Nestlé, Unilever and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora are the top three contributors of plastic waste discovered in the area, contributing to the 1.88 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste in the Philippines per year.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO
www.youtube.com

Arkansas Plant Board Backs Dicamba Ban Next Summer in Blow to Monsanto

The Arkansas Plant Board has approved new regulations that prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31, 2018 after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints of pesticide misuse in the state.

Arkansas, which temporarily banned the highly volatile weedkiller in July, could now face legal action from Monsanto, the developers of dicamba-resistant soybeans or cotton and the corresponding pesticide, aka the Xtend crop system.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Crews cleanup a spill from the Rover pipeline near the Tuscrawas River in southern Stark County. Ohio EPA

Ohio EPA Hikes Fines Against Rover Pipeline to $2.3 Million

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the state attorney general's office Wednesday to hold the owners of the troubled Rover natural gas pipeline responsible for $2.3 million dollars in fines. Rover leaked more than 2 million gallons of drilling mud into protected Ohio wetlands this spring, leading the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order a halt to construction.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Diego Cambiaso / Flickr

White House Considers Green Rebrand

The White House convened a "big-picture" strategy meeting on climate and environment this week, Politico reported.

At the meeting, deputy-level White House officials and representatives from agencies discussed how to frame President Trump's larger environmental objectives beyond simply overturning Obama-era regulations. Per Politico, meeting attendees considered the possibility of highlighting job creation and new energy technology and "how to combat the public perception that the administration is out of touch with climate science."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
iStock

How Trump Could Undermine the U.S. Solar Boom

By Llewelyn Hughes and Jonas Meckling

Tumbling prices for solar energy have helped stoke demand among U.S. homeowners, businesses and utilities for electricity powered by the sun. But that could soon change.

President Donald Trump—whose proposed 2018 budget would slash support for alternative energy—may get a new opportunity to undermine the solar power market by imposing duties that could increase the cost of solar power high enough to choke off the industry's growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox