China Checkup

China—Moving Forward

Ecofys Consultancy, an energy and climate consulting group, has determined China to be in good stead to achieve, and even surpass, its pledge for the Paris Climate Agreement. Earlier this year, China demonstrated positive developments in coal use as it canceled the construction of over 100 coal power stations. This effort is recognized as the country’s most significant yet. Coupled with slower coal use in India, both countries are predicted to reduce projected global carbon emissions growth by about two to three billion tonnes by 2030 compared to forecasts made just last year. Indeed, recent observations show that slower rates of greenhouse gas, particularly carbon dioxide emissions, are part of a larger sustained decline. Together, India and China would offset the relatively poor performance expected by the US, which is set to miss its Paris pledge.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Energy Agency (IEA), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tsinghua University, peaking carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 will reduce China’s emissions by at least 1.7 Gt, or 14%, from the most optimistic business-as-usual scenario.

According to Climate Tracker, China’s status is ‘Medium’.

China is on track to peak its carbon dioxide emissions between 2025 and 2030, but total greenhouse gases could continue to increase until at least 2030. Although China’s policies and actions appear set to achieve its INDC, the INDC itself is not yet ambitious enough to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

That being said, China’s president Xi Jinping, recently reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement over a telephone call with incoming French president, Emmanuel Macron. This public acknowledgement shows China’s leadership on global climate action despite international fears of the US Trump Administration’s rollbacks, or even complete withdrawal from the pact. The US and China had previously worked closely to lead global climate action, however China refuses to let this hold them back in further progress. For this reason, it is possible that China will accelerate its actions toward the Paris Agreement, and even increase its pledge henceforward.

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China Emission Reduction Policy

2015-2020 Action Plan for the Efficient Use of Coal and 2016-2020 13th Five-Year Plan

In February 2015, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the Finance Ministry released the 2015 – 2020 action plan for the efficient use of coal: aiming to decrease coal use by 160 million tonnes in the determined period. China’s federal 13th Five Year Plan (2016 – 2020) revealed further coal-related targets, including:

–    Ban on new coal-fired power plants until 2018
–    An annual cut in annual production capacity of coal of 700 Mtce; or, 14% of total production capacity
–    Closure of coal-fired power plants with the aim of reducing air pollution in urban areas.

In Beijing, the last coal-fired power plant has been shut down in 2016 and replaced with a gas power plant.

These policies have already begun to produce effects. The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) has shown that the production of raw coal is down 10% from 2015. In addition, hydropower generation has increased by 12%, nuclear by 24%, and wind power by 26%, between January and August 2016, in comparison to generation in the same period of 2015.
Projections further suggest that overall coal consumption in China has already peaked in 2013, as statistics show that it dropped by 2.9% in 2014, and a further 3.6% in 2015. Studies suggest that this may be due to two major factors:

1.    A decline in economic growth
2.    A continued policy to lower coal use in order to reduce air pollution and national greenhouse gas emissions

A continued reduction of coal consumption of 160 million tonnes per year until 2020 suggests that the range of emissions will be below the assumed 2013 peak of coal consumption. Paired with China’s first target cap on total energy consumption at 5 billion tonnes of coal equivalent, as well as targets on air quality progress in cities, China’s set policies will continue to have a major impact on the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, China will meet its 2020 pledge and its NDC targets, but it is predicted that it will remain substantially above current emission levels (22-24% above 2010 levels by 2020 and 33% – 40% by 2030). Although China continues to implement increasingly stringent policies to curb carbon dioxide emissions, particularly from coal, emission reductions from other greenhouse gases seem to be neglected.

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China Extreme Weather Event

Typhoon Nepartak—A Category 5 Super Typhoon

From mid-June through July of 2016, China endured a series of extreme precipitation events, including the tail-end of Typhoon Nepartak—a Category 5 super typhoon—that triggered deadly floods across twenty-six of the nation’s provinces. Official reports published on July 26, 2016 claim that the series of disasters led to a total of 833 deaths, 270 people missing, and a total of 6.24 million residents displaced. The floods have been marked as the world’s second deadliest weather-related event of 2016 and damages, amounting to $22 billion, have been estimated to be the world’s fifth most expensive weather-related natural disaster on record outside of the US.

The climatic severity of these precipitation events and floods was caused by a multitude of factors including, the combination of El Niño and higher levels of atmospheric water vapor caused by global warming. In addition, urbanization and land use changes in cities have led to the enormous demand for housing and the drainage of lakes for further development. This has severely affected the natural drainage system, causing water logging and flooding in the inner city areas.

Although, these factors have drastically influenced the severity of the weather disasters experienced in 2016, China understands that it will continue to see more frequent flooding as Asia’s monsoon system changes as a result of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation to these changes are critical to reducing the vulnerability of those most at risk from precipitation events and flooding.

In the past, the Chinese government focused on environmental restoration, such as (a) afforestation of steep farmlands, (b) restoration of floodplains by removing embankments, (c) resettling farmers in at-risk areas by building new townships; and (d) strengthening river levees and dredging riverbeds. These strategies have not been enough to protect poor farmers and communities—the most vulnerable to flooding. In the early days of August 2016, President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of early warning systems in flood-prone areas as well as the need for sustainable mitigation strategies focused on engineering solutions. The government is now conducting ‘sponge’ city pilots in 16 major urban centers, including Beijing and Shanghai, where drainage systems will be retrofitted for improved flood control and water conservation. Training of response and rescue personnel and improved access to villages are also required to reach those in risk situations. Community management, particularly by farmers, has been developed to aid flood control, gain greater resilience, and minimize losses.

The increased frequency, severity and unpredictability of weather events caused by climate change are a real threat to China’s population and economy—a fact that  will challenge the nation and keep pushing them to develop bold, new mitigation strategies that will create greater resilience in the face of greater risks.

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China Media Organizations

Historical Overview

Chinese media coverage of global climate change has become increasingly prominent; its growth described in three distinct phases: before and after the release of the February 2007 IPCC report, and later in the discussion and analysis of the Paris Agreement (particularly focusing on China’s role in curbing emissions, and its relation to the United States as a partner and competitor).

In China, the vast majority of media is state-controlled, subjected to critical analysis, and often prone to censorship. Therefore, until 2006 China’s coverage of climate change—a sensitive topic—was minimal, and took the form of matter-of-fact translations from Western scientific reports with little to no comment or discussion. Moreover, few articles made direct links between Chinese carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect or climate change. As a result, public awareness of environmental issues was generally low. The release of the IPCC Working Group I Report on 2 February 2007 in Paris, along with official statements acknowledging climate change, generated a prevalent willingness, from the state and media, to engage in, report, and publicly interpret issues dealing with climate change. Within the months that followed, environmental journalism bloomed and became integrated in all of China’s major news services, featuring global environmental news, as well as exposing local problems through unique stories. Although coverage of climate change has been encouraged by the state, discussions that critically analyze government policies remain rare and controversial; therefore factories and companies bare the greatest focus of criticism. The last phase of climate change coverage started in anticipation of the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, where China’s government further encouraged the coverage of negotiations, particularly its leading role with the United States in negotiating and setting agreements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the upcoming years. Further discussion has continued as President Trump’s position on climate change now threatens the relationships set by former President Obama.
Contact: 11B Fuxin Road, Beijing, China 100038

Broadcast Media

CCTV (China Central Television) is the official state television broadcaster for the People’s Republic of China carries the Communist Party voice.

Content Sample:

New study calls for action to make stagnant carbon dioxide emissions fall

Contact: Editor: Wang Lingxiao, Published: 31 Jan. 2017

The new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, warns that without accelerated deployment of technologies for capturing and storing atmospheric carbon, along with a sustained growth in renewables, allowing for a total reduction in greenhouse gases, the world could miss the target of remaining below 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels, set by the Paris Agreement. Wind and solar are thought to be ‘insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and are dependent on the slower-than-expected release of carbon capture and storage technology.

Print Media

Xinhua News Agency is the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China and is the biggest, most influential media organization in the country. It is a state-controlled institution. Its president, Mr. Ju Mengjun, is a member of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party.

Content Sample:

Link to Climate Change Topics:
Warming temperatures projected to trigger starvation in deep oceans by 2100
Published: 24 Feb. 2017

20 scientists of the world’s leading oceanographic research centers published a new study warning that the deep ocean floor may face starvation by 2100 as a result of drastic ecological change caused by warming ocean temperatures, increased acidification, and low oxygen zones. The earth system models used to predict the deep ocean temperatures in areas show changes between 0.5 to 4 degrees Celsius across regions. The increase in temperature will increase the metabolic rates of organisms, meaning they will require more food, and with it less available, will face starvation. The North Atlantic is predicted to face the greatest changes first.

Contact: 11 Wall St., New York, NY, 10005, USA; Tel: +1 212-509-0291

Prominent Environmental Reporter: Ni Yuanjin

Online Media

Chinadialogue is an independent organization dedicated to promoting a common understanding of China’s urgent environmental challenges. The non-profit website, launched in July 2003, is funded by a range of institutional supporters and is based in Beijing and London.

EU and China can outflank Trump on Climate Change
Published: 17 Feb. 2017; By: Li Shuo and Maeve McLynn

In anticipation for this year’s G20 summit in Bonn, China has reaffirmed its commitment to climate action, looking to the EU as a partner to fill the political void left by the US under President Donald Trump. Last year’s G20 summit brought the US and China to jointly ratify the Paris Agreement, stimulating ratification for the rest of the world and demonstrating that political resources are powerful, and necessary, to advancing climate cooperation. China urges the EU to bring climate action to the forefront of their political agenda and to act as joint collaborators with China in spearheading mitigation strategies.

Roundtable: How will countries respond if the US withdraws from Paris?
Contact: Chinadialogue Suite 306 Grayston Centre 28 Charles Square, London, N1 6HT, UK
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7324 4767

Prominent Environmental Reporter: Shi Yi

China Subnational Best Practices


Hebei Province Clean Heating Project—In 2003, district heating represented about 5.3 to 6.1 of total coal consumption in China and in 2008, the heating sector consumed a total of 145.4 million tons of raw coal. With continued urbanization and rising levels of quality of life in China, the effort to minimize the carbon intensity of district heating is necessary for low-carbon development. Hebei is a northern province adjacent to Beijing, in which national law requires district heating due to cold climatic conditions. The province has previously received World Bank funding and support for initial district heating reform as requested by 2003 central government policies, and now continues further subprojects to improve efficiency and environmental performance. The recently approved, January 2016, Clean Heating Project aims to modernize heating systems in Chengde, Xingtai and Zhangjiakou municipalities and Pingshan County through improved heat metering to promote efficiency and conservation; developing the use of waste heat from power plants and industry, and; transitioning to alternative sources of energy, primarily natural gas. The modernizing efforts for district heating will strengthen heat supply security, reduce air pollution, and allow for greater flexibility in sourcing energy from renewables, including geothermal and biomass. Currently, coal remains the cheapest energy source, however, ground-source heat pumps and other alternatives are gaining dominance.



Tianjin Urban Transportation Improvement Project—Tianjin is a northern city adjacent to Beijing. As part of the greater Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Project, the urban transportation improvement project aims to provide greater public service transportation, as well as promoting walking and biking in the urban core, in order to make transportation in Tianjin greener and safer. Travel patterns by urban residents have changed as urbanization has led to greater urban sprawl and development of improved road infrastructure. By 2012, private car ownership had reached 1.9 million, representing a three-fold increase since 2006, and private motorized trips accounted for 15.6 percent of total trips. The bike mode share in Tianjin dropped by 15 percent during that same period. As a result, congestion has worsened and heavy pollution plagues the city with about 66 percent of days with below-standard air quality.

The Tianjin Urban Transport Improvement Project is comprised of five main components:

1.    Redevelopment of streetscapes in Heping and Nankai districts, including pedestrian and bike networks
2.    Improving metro access through interconnection facilities, such as bike parking, bus connection, park and ride, etc.
3.    Launching a public bike sharing system pilot in the core urban area
4.    Development of a bus infrastructure, including parking, bus stops, lines, etc.
5.    World Bank technical assistance for sustainable green urban transport development:

Ningbo—Ningbo is a fast-growing port city in northeast Zhejiang province. The Ningbo Sustainable Urbanization Development Project follows an overarching eco-city, low-carbon framework aiming to improve the use of urban public space, mobility and reduce flood risk for particularly susceptible Ningbo counties. The project was approved in July, 2016 with a completion date in 2021, and is comprised of three main components:

1.    Urban regeneration by salvaging built assets and conserving embodied energy in existing buildings, as well as creating a higher quality, vibrant urban core that promotes greater urban facilities and prevents sprawl.
2.    Urban transportation to improve mobility within the urban network by enhancing transport capacity, reliability and service quality.
3.    Flood risk management through a decentralized approach, in which vulnerable counties will implement measures to their specific threats.

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Promotion of Clean and Low Carbon Cities (China)—China’s cities continue to absorb about 13 million rural residents each year. This rapid urbanization coupled with high economic growth and growing purchasing power, has put tremendous pressure on all forms of public services, including energy, housing, transport, and waste. Recognizing this mounting challenge, China’s cities have launched eco-city and low-carbon city initiatives. In fact, over 80% of all prefecture-level cities in the country have launched at least one eco-city project. A trend that has been largely supported by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) who officially announced, in 2012, that eight cities and several areas in five provinces would pilot low-carbon growth under national government guidance. Other cities have begun the initiatives independently thanks to China’s decentralized governmental structure that gives cities a high level of autonomy in political, financial and administrative matters. Municipal governments have demonstrated a desire for low-carbon transformations, understanding that such policies support the creation of livable, efficient, competitive, and sustainable urban areas. Outlined are three examples of projects that have been implemented under the overarching goal of developing a low-carbon framework.


The National Development and Reform Commission is an ‘inter-ministerial’ organization launched in 1998, in charge of establishing ands implementing national economic and social development strategies, including climate action and environmental frameworks for provinces and cities alike.

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China Leaders and Opponents

Government Official
Dr. Chen Jining
Minister of Environmental Protection, People’s Republic of China

Dr. Chen was appointed Minister of Environmental Protection in January 2015 and has since heavily focused on reducing air pollution in China’s major cities. He focuses on applying an environmental system analysis and integrated assessment for environmental engineering and policies. Contact information available upon request.
Climate Program Advocate
Li Shuo
Senior Climate Policy Adviser for Greenpeace East Asia

Based in Beijing, Li Shuo oversees Greenpeace’s work on air pollution, water and renewable energy throughout East Asia. He has a significant role in coordinating the organization’s engagement with the UNFCCC and has extensive experience in Sino-US and E.U.- China climate relations. Contact information available upon request.

Climate Program Advocate
Deng Fei
Social Media Environmental Activist

Deng Fei has captivated China’s public environmental awareness through the social media site, Weibo. By launching discussions and projects such as China Water Safety Foundation, his followers have been given power and access to more environmental rights. Environmental activists like Deng Fei are critical in providing an effective voice for the public and influencing China’s government for greater environmental reforms and policies.  Contact information available upon request.

Climate Program Advocate
Ma Jun
Investigative reporter, environmental activist and founder of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE)

Ma Jun’s 1999 book China’s Water Crisis has often been compared to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, as it initiated the country’s first public ‘call to arms’ with regard to China’s growing environmental crisis. His non-profit environmental research organization, IPE, is dedicated to collecting, collating, and analyzing government and corporate environmental data to build a thorough database. The data is an important tool in environmental policymaking, corporate supply chain transformation, as well as promoting public transparency of environmental information. Ma Jun acts as a knowledgeable consultant and adviser for environmental governance mechanisms in China.


Climate Program  Opponent
Chairman Xiao Yaqing
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC)

SASAC is responsible for managing China’s State-Owned Enterprises, including China First Heavy Industries, Shenhua Group (global leader in steel production), China National Petroleum Corporation, etc. The interests of SOEs pull the government in different directions and regularly delay ambitious reforms. The SOEs have great influence on decision-making in China and have been keen to ensure that major changes in policy are implemented slowly enough for their businesses to adjust. In China, it is difficult to have direct ‘climate deniers’ because of the visible and obvious pollution effects occurring throughout the country. See SASAC for contact information.

China Leading Research Study

Research Study: “The Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources and Agriculture in China,” Piao, Nature Magazine , 2010

Piao et al.’s 2010 paper, ‘Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources and Agriculture in China’, published in Nature Magazine, qualifies as the most important research conducted in the past five years in China due to its unprecedented headway in investigating the influence of climate change within the country. Prior to its publishing, climate research in China was scarce, apart from the markedly clear observations of nation-wide warming. This study was the first to collect and analyze multidisciplinary data on climatic factors, hydrology, and agriculture. It attempted to synthesize observed data over a period of 50 years, with the objective of producing a cohesive understanding, through trends and models, of the spatial and temporal impacts in regional water cycles and vegetation response, including agriculture production. This research highlighted geographic areas most vulnerable to change, while identifying sources of uncertainty that required further in-depth study.

Consequently, Piao et al.’s paper has been followed by a series of detailed, regional research studies into climate change impacts. These studies all contribute to the ability of China to develop climate change mitigation strategies. China’s mitigation strategies seek to advance effective water use and storage, as well as innovative means of food production. Indeed, both agriculture and water resources are considered highly susceptible to climatic conditions. They reflect China’s vulnerable future in facing complex challenges that ensure continued food security and welfare for its growing population.

The four main findings of this study are:

More than 80% of glaciers in western China are currently in a state of retreat, with warming temperatures causing significant changes in annual glacier mass balance, and critically affecting river runoff and agricultural production in China and south Asian countries (60% of glacier runoff flows out of China). Hydrological models suggest that river runoff in the Yellow river is expected to increase by 11% in the short term, and later decrease due to rising temperatures causing increasing evapotranspiration. Coupled with increasing human water extraction, and high uncertainties from IPCC climate models, water supply remains a high risk for China, particularly in addressing differences between the arid northern and wet southern regions.
The three main crops in China are rice, wheat and maize, together accounting for 54% of the total sown area and 89% of the grain yield in 2007. Warming is believed to be harmful to rain-fed crops but beneficial to irrigated agriculture, as shown in rice and wheat yields; rice yields in the northeast have increased by 4.5 – 14.6% per °C in response to night-time warming during the period 1951 to 2002; whereas, warmer day-time temperatures have negatively affected wheat yields by about 6 – 20% per °C. Nonetheless, crop models in China suggest a 20% decrease in overall yields due to climate change susceptibility.
Regional climate warming has allowed an increase in the geographic expanse of pests and disease, causing an estimated increase of 245Mha in cropland exposure to disease and pest infestations since 1970. The annual harvest loss due to pests and diseases has increased from ~6Mt in the early 1970s to ~13Mt in the mid-2000s.
A non-significant increasing trend in drought affected cropland areas has been observed since 1971. However the area affected by flooding events have increased by over 88% since the 1970s. Nonetheless, both drought and flooding changes remain within the bounds of year-to-year harvest variability.

Legacy and uncertainties:

China’s long emphasis on enlarging regional water storage and strengthening water resource management infrastructure has now become more detailed and comprehensive.
Regional climate simulations were found to have a high uncertainty in this study, particularly for precipitation models, and improvements continue to be met through scientific research.
The magnitude of CO2 fertilization effect on crop yields is still being debated and remains a variable of high uncertainty. Certain crop models suggest that cereal yields will benefit from global climate change, with elevated levels of CO2 acting as fertilizer, however, others suggest that the benefits will be outweighed by other negative factors such as the spread of pests.
Increasing surface ozone concentration, causing crop plant damage in cases of high exposure, could also negate the benefits of CO2 fertilization, and levels must be monitored.

The study was conducted by a series of scientists from different research labs at Chinese universities based in Beijing and was intended to inform both the scientific community, as well as China’s climate policy. This paper has no direct implications for policies related to the Paris Agreement; however, it was an important precursor for climate research in China and its legacy performs an important role in guiding China’s Five Year Plans, as well as policies for national emission reduction. In particular, China’s ‘green wall policy’ and the ‘grain for green program’ are both reforestation projects that have been stressed in China’s national climate change program to protect existing forest carbon stock and enhance carbon sequestration.

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China Emissions Reduction Policy

China: The 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020)

China’s climate policies are defined by the central government, the most important of which are set in the Five Year Plans, a national economic statement that outlines the country’s growth path through wide-ranging targets. The 13th Five Year Plan (2016 – 2020) presents six targets relevant to emission reduction, including the promotion of clean production through low-carbon industries, as well as investment in a green development fund. More specifically, the targets are to reduce energy intensity by 15 percent and carbon intensity by 18 percent compared to 2015 levels. In addition, energy consumption will be capped at 5 billion tons of coal equivalent, and the share of primary energy consumption from non-renewable sources will increase to 15 percent.

These targets are implemented in a cascading responsibility system; the central government sets the overall targets that are then disaggregated by province, uniquely executed to reflect local resources and conditions. The central government keeps accountability through annual evaluations, rewarding provincial leaders that introduced creative and effective policy mechanisms that perform well in achieving the targets. As a result, China has seen an increasing participation of experts and consultants that help advise provinces in advancing the national goals.

Two of the most effective national policies currently in place include China’s economic restructuring as well as their commitment to invest in non-fossil fuel energy. These two policies have been primarily driven by domestic considerations rather than international image and accountability. In particular, China’s recent public outcries against air pollution and smog in cities has led to a greater urgency to transition away from high energy and carbon intensive industries, and to continue expanding its service sector and ‘clean’ energy production.

Although investment in non-fossil fuel energy serves to meet carbon mitigation targets, Chinese policy-makers have also cited the importance of expanding nuclear and renewables as a tool for developing a greater overall supply of energy. Recognizing that energy is a key input to economic growth, and that energy demand will most likely continue to grow along with the economy, the Chinese government sees any additional source of energy production as attractive. In addition, the concern with future energy security, particularly if imported from foreign countries, has meant that China’s energy policy has focused on stimulating investment in renewables. As of now, China is the world’s leading producer of renewable energy and also leads the world in clean energy investment with a record of $89.5 billion dollars invested in 2014.

Nonetheless, China is said to not fully see the extent of the benefits of renewables, as large State Owned Enterprises in coal are criticized for resisting much of the policies that would cut coal completely out of the energy picture, and continue to lengthen the policy implementation process in order to ensure time for businesses to adjust to these new energy sources.

The second national policy, economic restructuring is largely driven by China’s ambition to continue economic growth despite international agreements to cap and reduce emissions. Indeed, in the past five years China’s leadership has sought to focus on expanding its service sector rather than continuing investments into its manufacturing industries. Thus, the 13th Five Year Plan looks to boost innovation, abandoning old heavy industry and building up bases of modern information-intensive infrastructure. In particular, China continues to force closure or capping production of heavy industries, including cement and steel factories. An example of policy that serves to achieve this goal is China’s selection of seven new ‘strategic industries’, of which the central government has focused on providing financial and resource support to environmental technology, bio technology, next generation IT, etc. Overall, this ‘green growth’ path is seen as an opportunity for China to gain leadership in the global low carbon market.

Although this national policy for economic restructuring will surely lead China to effective carbon and greenhouse gas mitigation, it also has the potential of causing global transition of manufacturing and energy intensive industries to new ‘less economically developed countries’ such as Indonesia and Bangladesh. This means that the overall net effect on global greenhouse emissions has the potential of not being as significant.

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China Energy Production Trends

How The Energy System Is Structured

The energy policy of China is a policy decided on by the Central Government. Ensuring adequate energy supply to sustain economic growth has been a core concern of the Chinese government since 1949.

China has been taking action on climate change for some years; on June 4, 2007, China’s first National Action Plan on Climate Change was published.

The National Action Plan includes increasing the proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy sources and from nuclear power, increasing the efficiency of coal-fired power stations, the use of cogeneration, and the development of coal-bed and coal-mine methane.

Since 2005, the Chinese government has intensified its efforts to privatize parts of the energy sector. Whereas the transmission and distribution of electricity remained under state control, the power generation market was partly opened to private and foreign investors. The main reason for this change in direction was the need to operate the system more cost-effectively and to attract clean technologies for power generation.

China currently lacks a national grid. There are currently 6 wide area synchronous grids. The lack of a single grid frequently creates power shortages.

Leading Sources of Energy

China’s sources of energy include coal (69%), oil (18%), natural gas (4%), nuclear (1%), hydroelectric (6%), and renewable (wind, solar, etc.) (1%).

China has abundant energy with the world’s third-largest coal reserves and massive hydroelectric resources. But there is a geographical mismatch between the location of the coal fields in the northeast (Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning) and the north (Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Henan); hydropower in the southwest (Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet); and the fast-growing industrial load centers of the east (Shanghai-Zhejiang) and south (Guangdong, Fujian).

In the industrial sector, six industries—electricity generation, steel, non-ferrous metals, construction materials, oil processing, and chemicals—account for nearly 70% of energy use.

International criticism regarding China’s energy mix, with its heavy reliance on coal as main source
for electricity generation, was joined by the populace’s rising concerns over heavy CO2 and particle pollution measures. In 2015, China’s leaders committed to seeing carbon emissions starting to peak at 2030, which requires adding as much as 1,000 gigawatts of capacity from low-carbon emitting energy sources.

In 2014 China led the world by adding 56 gigawatts of clean energy. Almost one out of every three wind turbines in the world and about 17% of the world’s solar capacity is in China.

Apart from renewable energy sources, China has put a focus on the development of nuclear power over the past years. The Chinese government expects to reach 58 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020. (Japan had about 50 gigawatts of nuclear capacity before the Fukushima accident.)

Profiles of Leading Energy Production Companies

China’s biggest crude oil companies are state-owned energy conglomerates with sprawling international operations in oil and gas exploration and production; petroleum and chemical processing; storage and transportation; and many other energy production functions. Examples of such companies include the following:

China Petroleum and Chemical Company

China Petroleum and Chemical Company, known as Sinopec, is an oil, gas, and chemical giant with more than $440 billion in consolidated revenues. The company produced 361 million barrels of crude oil in 2014. Sinopec maintains vast operations along the full length of the oil supply chain, from exploration and drilling to retail sales at more than 30,000 gasoline stations.

China National Petroleum Corporation

China National Petroleum Corporation or CNPC is the second biggest Chinese crude oil producer. In 2014 the company reported more than $425 billion in consolidated revenue and production of nearly 1.2 billion barrels of crude oil. Like SINOPEC, CNPC operates businesses along the full length of the oil supply chain, from initial exploration to retail. Most CNPC operations are organized under a subsidiary company, PetroChina.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation

China National Offshore Oil Corporation, known as CNOOC, was established in 1982 to focus on oil and gas exploration and production in China’s offshore waters. It has since developed into an international company with operations in more than 40 countries.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Staff

China Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Rising consumer and/or industrial demand for energy intensive products and services; (b) Dependence on fossil fuels as energy sources, especially coal and oil


Current Level of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

China has experienced rapid economic development, urbanization and industrialization for over three decades since its commencement of Reform and Opening Up Policy. However, undergirding the transformative changes is an ever-increasing energy demand heavily dominated by fossil fuels (especially coal). According to a 2015 scholarly report, 90% of China’s carbon emission derives from various fossil fuels; in terms of industrial sectors, manufacturing and power generation are jointly responsible for 85% of China’s total carbon emission in 2012. This massive energy consumption has not only lead to enormous carbon emission, but has also caused notorious air pollution. In February 2015, a documentary named Under the Dome raised public awareness on China’s energy consumption and environment protection. Thus, a reduction in greenhouse gas emission is intertwined with improving air quality, both of which demand effective energy reform.


Emission Reduction Challenges

The greatest challenge China faces in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions is the high energy demand driven by its rapidly developing economy. Currently, China accounts for about one quarter of global carbon emissions annually. Consequently, China has been a key focus in international emission mitigation efforts.

In fact, China has made great progress in energy reform during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). According to official statistics, China has met its target in coal and energy (equivalent to 5 billion tons coal consumption cap). Coal consumption reached its plateau for the first time in 2014; also, in terms of clean energy, China has been a leading investor in wind and solar energy, overtaking Germany as the NO.1 in solar capacity. In March 2016, China laid out its policy initiatives to address the challenges of sustainable development in the 13th Five-Year Plan. The new target is an 18% reduction in carbon-intensity from its 2015 level, and a 15% reduction in energy intensity. If this is achieved, it can be a great step towards meeting its Paris Agreement pledges.

When China’s economic growth slows down to 6.5% annually, it is probable that its energy demand will not be as high as before. Still, challenges remain. How to balance its economic growth and environmental sustainability will be the primary policy concern in its Five-Year Plan.

–Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Jingli Liu


Useful Resources

See “China’s Carbon Emission Report 2015”,

YouTube link:, Under the Dome was filmed by Chai Jing, a famous CCTV journalist. In Feb 2015, this documentary attracted more than 0.1 billion viewings on China’s video streaming websites. It gives a good overview of China’s energy sector and demands for energy reform. Given its high popularity, Chinese government banned it later.

For a more comprehensive view of Chinese progress in renewable energy, see

For a detailed version of Chinese 13th Five-Year Plan (Chinese version), see Chapter 46 of the Report