By Haibing Ma

Guangdong is releasing a series of policies to ensure a green future. ©

According to media reports, Guangdong province has taken the lead in becoming the pioneer of low-carbon practices in China. Guangdong is one of 13 pilot regions—including five provinces and eight municipalities—that the Chinese government has selected to explore low-carbon development. So far, it is the only pilot region that has issued a comprehensive plan for this development and had it approved by the central government.

In January 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reviewed and then “approved with positive comments” Guandong’s “Implementation Plan for Low-Carbon Pilot Programs.” Although this plan has not been made public, it reportedly lays out eight “key actions”:

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12th Five-Year Plan, cap and trade, carbon emission, carbon intensity, China, emission trading, energy intensity, green development, Guangdong province, low-carbon, MRV, NDRC, pilot program, statistics

The Jamaican economy is highly energy inefficient. In 2008, the country’s energy intensity index ranked 47th in the world, at 8,937 btu per year 2005 U.S. dollar. The energy intensity index shows the energy efficiency of a nation’s economy; the higher it is, the more it costs to convert energy into GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Reasons for this high energy intensity include the energy demands of the bauxite and alumina industry, the inefficient public electricity system with its high transmission and distribution losses, inefficient energy use in the public sector, and low public awareness of the importance of energy conservation.

Worldwatch meets with Jamaica government officials to discuss energy issues. From left: Senior Director of Energy at the Ministry of Energy & Mining Fitzroy Vidal, State Minister Laurence Broderick, Worldwatch Caribbean Project Manager Mark Konold, and Sr. Engineer at Ministry of Energy & Mining, Gerald Lindo

Jamaica depends heavily on imported petroleum, which supplies 91 percent of domestic energy use. Transportation accounts for nearly half (47 percent) of the energy consumed, followed by the bauxite and alumina industry (30 percent), and electricity generation (23 percent). Despite the increase in world oil prices, Jamaica’s energy consumption has grown faster than its economy over the past decade. Given these realities, the Jamaican National Energy Policy for 2009-2030 aims to design and implement cost-saving measures to boost energy efficiency and conservation across the public sector.

In 2011, the Jamaican government set a target of reducing public sector energy consumption 5 percent below the 2010 level by 2015, mainly through public sector efficiency improvements. These include energy audits and building retrofits to replace lighting and air conditioning units, and improving building envelopes by implementing cool roof coatings and window films. Because reducing energy consumption also requires efforts of those who use public buildings, staff are expected to fully engage in the process by following the protocols in place. Education and knowledge dissemination about energy efficiency and conservation are a key component of this project.

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energy efficiency, energy intensity, Inter-American Development Bank, Jamaica, oil

By Haibing Ma

Provinces and municipalities had been competing to establish emissions trading systems (Source: nddaily).

In an article co-authored with my colleague Alexander Ochs in September 2010, we discussed China’s interest in setting up a scheme for carbon-emissions trading in the next five years. Now, the deal is set: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently issued an official notice to initiate pilot carbon-trading programs in seven regions. By embracing market-based approaches to mitigating climate change, China is seeking to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition to sustainable development.

The seven pilot regions are the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen, as well as Guangdong and Hubei provinces. It’s no surprise that some of these regions overlap with China’s “Five Provinces, Eight Cities” pilot program on low-carbon development, initiated in 2010. Although details of the emissions trading programs have not been elaborated, designation of the pilot regions indicates that the central government has finally made up its mind to issue clearer guidance on exploring carbon markets, in order to better coordinate existing municipal and provincial interest in emissions trading.

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12th Five-Year Plan, absolute cap, carbon emission, carbon intensity, carbon tax, China, emission trading, energy intensity, environmental equities, Grand Western Development Program, NDRC, pilot, preferential policies, Special Economic Zone, voluntary

At the opening ceremony of the 5th World Future Energy Summit, held in Abu Dhabi on January 16, 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao assured the world that China will stick to a green and sustainable development path. As the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to present at the summit, Wen’s speech delivered a clear message to the world about what China plans to do to secure its future development.

Premier Wen Jiabao gives his speech in Abu Dhabi.

But sustainable actions already being pursued in China provide an even more convincing picture than the premier’s words. In its 12th Five-Year Plan—an overarching guidance framework used in Chinese policymaking—China includes a fairly comprehensive collection of sustainable development goals, among them energy intensity and carbon-emission intensity targets. Because the Five-Year Plan lays out only very general goals and measures, it is up to individual ministries or the State Council, China’s cabinet to sketch out and pursue implementation.

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12th Five-Year Plan, carbon intensity, carbon market, China, clean industry, emerging strategic sectors, emission trading, energy conservation, energy intensity, NDRC, renewable energy, sectoral structure, sustainable development, sustainable transition

China is saying NO to "dirty" economic growth patterns

Almost six months have passed since the release of the 12th Five-Year Plan – China’s overarching social and economic development guide for the 2011-15 period – and none of the specific sectoral development plans have been unveiled. Among them, the specific energy development plan has attracted the most attention due to the fact that a dual-target control system, with binding goals for both energy intensity and total energy consumption, will be used to ensure the country’s transition to a more environmentally-friendly economy.

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carbon intensity, China, Climate Change, energy intensity, GDP, local municipalities, national government, renewable energy, sustainable development, total energy consumption

Reports indicate that China is about to raise its 2015 goal for solar photovoltaic (PV) power to 10 gigawatts (GW), confirming an anonymous report that was leaked earlier this year. The target was originally set at 5 GW in the 12th Five-Year Plan released in March but has since been doubled in the newly submitted Development Plan for Renewable Energy during the 12th Five-Year Period, a document submitted to the State Council at the beginning of this month.

China aims to be a global giant on solar power

It might appear that this doubling is a direct reaction to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, and that China may follow Germany’s steps in halting nuclear energy development. But that isn’t likely to happen. Although the Chinese government did issue an urgent safety review of domestic nuclear power plants, especially those in the construction and planning stages, there has been no official decision to stop or even slow China’s nuclear development. Rather, according to the latest statement from the Director-General of the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), the country will continue to grow its nuclear power industry.

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12th Five-Year Plan, 2015 target, China, electricity grid, energy intensity, renewable energy, solar power, transimission

According to a new report from Renmin University, in 2005–09 there were significant differences between China’s statistical data for provincial energy use when aggregated using local government data versus when calculated by a province as a whole. This gap between bottom-up and top-down statistics is also evident at the national versus provincial level.

2011 GDP growth rate: goals claimed by individual provinces are significantly larger than national target of 8%

It’s a well-known fact that the mismatch between national statistics and aggregated provincial data is an ongoing challenge in China. Reports indicate that in recent years, estimates for national energy consumption using aggregated provincial data have been up to 15 percent higher than the national total figure.

And it’s not just energy data that faces accountability issues. The aggregate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistics reported by local governments, for instance, is often larger than the overall national figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In 2004, the aggregate provincial GDP surpassed the national figure by almost 20 percent. After that, the gap shrank significantly but increased again in the past five years. The 2010 national and provincial GDP data still show an 8 percent gap.

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cap and trade, capacity building, China, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy intensity, GDP, GHG inventory, statistics

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) recently released its latest energy outlook, which highlights the progress made in 2010 and foresees a busy 2011. While development of new and renewable energy sources is the focus of China’s long-term energy plan, the Chinese government is still struggling to figure out exactly how fast those sectors should grow. Learning from previous experiences, China’s top decision makers are taking a more practical – and in our opinion, more rational – approach to creating a low-carbon economy. 

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12th Five-Year Plan, carbon intensity, China, Chinese Electricity Council, energy intensity, energy outlook, grid infrastructure, National Energy Administration, non-fossil fuels, renewable energy, ultra high voltage, wind power

 By Haibing Ma  

China recently announced that it achieved its national goal for energy savings as outlined in the 11th Five-Year Plan of 2006–2010. But the real test of this success is just beginning. The country is about to release its next five-year plan for economic development and will need to delegate responsibility for achieving the next set of nationwide energy and emissions targets at the provincial and local levels.  

On January 6, Zhang Ping, Director-General of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s macroeconomic planning body, announced that the country “basically” met its goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP (i.e., energy intensity) by 20 percent by the end of 2010. This is the first time that a top Chinese official has claimed such success, although the exact level of energy savings has yet to be disclosed.  

But what about targets for the period past 2010? Zhang made his announcement during the first day of a two-day National Energy Administration meeting to outline key energy-related tasks for 2011. Yet the meeting didn’t reveal any detailed targets for China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–15), instead providing basic guiding principles such as promoting clean and efficient use of fossil fuels, expediting the development of new and renewable energy sources, and optimizing regional energy projects.  

The new goals won’t be a secret for much longer. In early March, the annual assembly of the National People’s Congress will be held in Beijing. This yearly meeting of China’s highest organ of state power is the birthplace of the nation’s all-important policies. It is bound to attract significant worldwide attention this year because representatives from all around China will be gathering to review and then release the country’s next five-year plan for economic and social development.  

Of the numerous grand goals to be set in the 12th Five-Year Plan, the two figures that concern the international climate community the most are a new energy-intensity target and a first-time-ever target for reducing China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP (i.e., carbon intensity). Although previous reports indicated that the nation’s new energy-intensity reduction target might be 17.3 percent, recent media coverage of the draft 12th Five-Year Plan hints at a 16-percent reduction (from the 2010 baseline) for both energy and carbon intensity. But these figures are still subject to change between now and March.  

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11th Five-Year Plan, 12th Five-Year Plan, Cancun, China, Climate Change, COP-16, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, energy intensity, green economy, Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, renewable energy, Shanxi, target

By Haibing Ma and Alexander Ochs

Recently, a China Daily news report caught Uncle Sam’s attention, presumably at an inconvenient time: just when the U.S. Senate finally admitted to abandoning its plan of issuing a federal climate bill by the end of this year, top Chinese officials were discussing how to launch carbon trading programs under their country’s next Five-Year Plan (2011–15). Serving as China’s overarching social and economic guidance, Five-Year Plans consistently lay out the most crucial development strategies for this giant emerging economy. Once included in the plan, carbon trading will be viewed as part of China’s national goals and will be domestically binding. This occurred most recently with the country’s 2010 energy intensity target, which called for a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels and was disaggregated into provincial and local targets, with local officials held accountable for achieving them. In short, China seems to be accelerating full-throttle toward a low-carbon economy.

Chinese policymakers have been eyeing a domestic emission-trading scheme for a while. Last August, Xie Zhenhua, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), announced that China will launch a pilot carbon trading program in selected regions and/or sectors—basically the same message conveyed in the recent China Daily story. On one hand, this reiteration demonstrates that the Chinese government is seriously considering such a market-based mitigation mechanism; on the other hand, the fact that the program’s status is still in discussion a year later shows that putting cap-and-trade into action might be not be that easy in China either.

Here are some of the problems: A non-voluntary emission-trading system cannot work without a mandatory cap on emissions, either for the economy as a whole or for individual sectors. However, China is currently unlikely to set an absolute emission target because this would contradict its long-standing position at international climate negotiations that industrialized countries have a historic responsibility to take the lead in this area. Most Chinese climate officials and experts agree that China could probably peak its emissions between 2030 and 2035, but huge uncertainties remain.

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cap and trade, carbon trading, China, Climate Change, emissions reductions, energy intensity, MRV, NDRC, Tianjin Climate Exchange, U.S., UNFCCC