Chinese energy-climate latest policy developments, by Larissa Basso and Eduardo Viola

The world is currently in a development path that does not respect the planetary limits for a safe existence for humanity. Greenhouse gases (GHG) concentration in the atmosphere has been dangerously rising and must be kept under control if climate change is to be tackled. Any initiative successful in controlling GHG concentration must take into account the central role of world’s big GHG emitters, and China is currently the biggest – its share in global emissions was 25% in 2012. Given that the energy sector answers for more than 77% of Chinese GHG emissions, investigating the Chinese energy-climate policy progress towards low carbon development in the last years is crucial to understand the current stumbling blocks in multilateral climate negotiations.

In the paper published in Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (RBPI, special edition on China, 2014), researchers disclose the latest (2006-2013) developments in Chinese energy-climate policy. The paper shows that the country has gone through substantial change in the field: from “development at all costs”, China adopted the concept of Scientific Development in its 11th Five Year Guidelines (2006-2010), in which the environment is taken into account and several provisions regarding climate change are present. Following it, China revised its Energy Conservation Law, coupled energy pricing and energy efficiency and launched incentives for renewable energy production. In 2007, its National Climate Change Programme was enacted. The 12th Five Year Guidelines (2011-2015) advance the policies, and even pilots a carbon trading scheme. The research shows that the achievements have been substantial, but heterogeneously placed and not enough to change the high carbon emissions profile of Chinese economy.

The paper argues that this is the reason why the Chinese positioning in climate international negotiations – which had an upward trend to accept flexibility on mechanisms to implement targeted reductions and agreed on technological cooperation with developed countries, but basically reinforces the G-77 platform of common but differentiated responsibilities – is miles away from the commitment needed from the world’s greatest GHG emitter. The Chinese positioning is is a major stumbling block for the climate regime. In its conclusion, researchers defend that China must deal with its domestic idiosyncrasies – complicated bureaucracy with overlapping competencies in energy and climate issues, conflict of priorities between central and local governments, lack of institutional autonomy and independence – if it is to further advance towards low carbon development. Maybe then its domestic efforts will be reflected in the international arena, and the expected Chinese co-leadership in the global transition to a low carbon economy will be achieved.


Larissa Basso, Institute of International Relations, University of Brasília, Brasília, DF, Brazil (larissabasso@gmail.com)

Eduardo Viola, Institute of International Relations, University of Brasília, Brasília, DF, Brazil (eduviola@gmail.com)

Read the article:

BASSO, Larissa; VIOLA, Eduardo. Chinese energy policy progress and challenges in the transition to low carbon development, 2006-2013. Rev. bras. polít. int.,  Brasília ,  v. 57, n. spe,   2014 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300174&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  19  Oct.  2014.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201400211.

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