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Assessing China's Carbon Intensity Pledge for 2020: Stringency and Credibility Issues and Their Implications

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  • ZhongXiang Zhang

    () (East-West Center)

Abstract

Just prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, China pledged to cut its carbon intensity by 40-45% by 2020 relative to its 2005 levels to help reach an international climate change agreement at Copenhagen or beyond. This raises the issue of whether such a pledge is ambitious or just represents business as usual. To put China's climate pledge into perspective, this paper examines whether this proposed carbon intensity goal for 2020 is as challenging as the energy-saving goals set in the current 11th five-year economic blueprint, to what extent it drives China's emissions below its projected baseline levels, and whether China will fulfill its part of a coordinated global commitment to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere at the desirable level. Given that China's pledge is in the form of carbon intensity, the paper shows that GDP figures are even more crucial for determining impacts on energy or carbon intensity than are energy consumption and emissions data by examining the revisions of China's GDP figures and energy consumption in recent years. Moreover, the paper emphasizes that China's proposed carbon intensity target not only needs to be seen as ambitious, but more importantly it needs to be credible. Finally, it is concluded with a suggestion that international climate change negotiations need to focus on 2030 as the targeted date to cap the greenhouse gas emissions of the world's two largest emitters in a legally binding global agreement.

Suggested Citation

  • ZhongXiang Zhang, 2010. "Assessing China's Carbon Intensity Pledge for 2020: Stringency and Credibility Issues and Their Implications," Economics Study Area Working Papers 113, East-West Center, Economics Study Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:ewc:wpaper:wp113
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2010. "The U.S. proposed carbon tariffs, WTO scrutiny and China’s responses," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 203-225, August.
    2. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2012. "Effective environmental protection in the context of government decentralization," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 53-82, March.
    3. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2010. "China in the transition to a low-carbon economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 6638-6653, November.
    4. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2000. "Can China afford to commit itself an emissions cap? An economic and political analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 587-614, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2012. "Why Are the Stakes So High? Misconceptions and Misunderstandings in China’s Global Quest for Energy Security," Working Papers 2012.48, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    2. Ni, Jinlan & Wei, Chu & Du, Limin, 2015. "Revealing the political decision toward Chinese carbon abatement: Based on equity and efficiency criteria," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 609-621.
    3. Richard Green & Yacob Mulugetta & Zhong Xiang Zhang, 2014. "Sustainable energy policy," Chapters,in: Handbook of Sustainable Development, chapter 33, pages 532-550 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Wei Jin, 2012. "Can Technological Innovation Help China Take on Its Climate Responsibility? A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," CAMA Working Papers 2012-51, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    5. Zhang, ZhongXiang, "undated". "Making China the transition to a low-carbon economy: Key challenges and responses," Working Papers 249516, Australian National University, Centre for Climate Economics & Policy.
    6. Jin, Wei, 2012. "Can technological innovation help China take on its climate responsibility? An intertemporal general equilibrium analysis," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 629-641.
    7. repec:eee:enepol:v:108:y:2017:i:c:p:634-644 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2016. "Are China’s Climate Commitments in a Post-Paris Agreement Sufficiently Ambitious?," MITP: Mitigation, Innovation,and Transformation Pathways 249785, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    9. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2013. "Energy and Environmental Issues and Policy in China," Working Papers 2013.92, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    10. Wei, Chu & Löschel, Andreas & Liu, Bing, 2015. "Energy-saving and emission-abatement potential of Chinese coal-fired power enterprise: A non-parametric analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 33-43.
    11. Ying Liu & Haibo Guo & Cheng Sun & Wen-Shao Chang, 2016. "Assessing Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) as an Alternative Material for Mid-Rise Residential Buildings in Cold Regions in China—A Life-Cycle Assessment Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(10), pages 1-13, October.
    12. Can Wang & Jie Lin & Wenjia Cai & ZhongXiang Zhang, 2013. "Policies and Practices of Low Carbon City Development in China," Energy & Environment, , vol. 24(7-8), pages 1347-1372, December.
    13. Du, Limin & Hanley, Aoife & Wei, Chu, 2015. "Estimating the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve of CO2 Emissions in China: Provincial Panel Data Analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 217-229.
    14. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2011. "China's energy security, the Malacca dilemma and responses," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(12), pages 7612-7615.
    15. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2011. "Breaking the Impasse in International Climate Negotiations: A New Direction for Currently Flawed Negotiations and a Roadmap for China to 2050," Working Papers 2011.49, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    16. Junko Mochizuki & ZhongXiang Zhang, 2011. "Environmental Security and its Implications for China’s Foreign Relations," Working Papers 2011.30, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    17. Lu, Yingying & Stegman, Alison & Cai, Yiyong, 2013. "Emissions intensity targeting: From China's 12th Five Year Plan to its Copenhagen commitment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1164-1177.
    18. Mariana Conte Grand, 2016. "GDP-related emission targets weaknesses: the case of Argentina," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 599, Universidad del CEMA.
    19. van Ruijven, Bas J. & Weitzel, Matthias & den Elzen, Michel G.J. & Hof, Andries F. & van Vuuren, Detlef P. & Peterson, Sonja & Narita, Daiju, 2012. "Emission allowances and mitigation costs of China and India resulting from different effort-sharing approaches," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 116-134.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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