Peer-reviewed Article
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Energy and CO2 intensity reduction policies in China: Targets and Implementation

In Global Environmental Research Vol.17 / No.1 /2013 2013-03

China announced to decrease CO2 emission intensity per GDP by 17% by 2015 compared to the 2010 levels in its 12th Five Year Plan (FYP12: 2011-2015). This paper assesses the implementation plan of the CO2 intensity target in the FYP12 by comparing it with the implementation of China’s energy intensity reduction policy during the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP11: 2006-2010) period. While it is difficult to evaluate China’s Cancun Pledge (CO2 intensity target for 2020), it can be generally agreed that the successful achievement of the CO2 intensity target in the FYP12 will be crucial for meeting the Cancun Pledge.

To ensure the implementation of the target, the Chinese government applied the Target Responsibility System (TRS) to the FYP12 CO2 intensity target. National targets are distributed to local governments and enterprises as mandatory targets and the TRS makes it clear which government bodies and personnel are responsible for achieving the allocated target. Target achievement status is linked to personnel evaluation, with a possibility of punitive measures. China’s distinctive legal and political systems enabled the introduction of the TRS: strong command and supervisory authority of the central government over provincial governments, strong binding force of the National Development Plan, and the party’s overall control of personnel affairs.

TRS played a crucial role in achieving energy intensity targets in the FYP11 period, but there were a number of issues observed, such as the unreasonable allocation of targets to some provinces, illegal forced power cuts by local governments as last-minute methods to achieving their targets, and uncertainty over the credibility of targets achievement results. Based on some problematic issues observed, China’s government introduced various measures such as more reasonable (perhaps scientifically based) target allocation process, Energy Forecast and Early-Warning System and Fixed Asset Conservation Measures.

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