Towards a Low-Carbon Economy
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Chapter 4: Assessing China’s Carbon Intensity Pledge for 2020: Stringency and Credibility Issues and their Implications
1 INTRODUCTION 1. China is already the world’s largest carbon emitter and its emissions continue to rise rapidly in line with its industrialization and urbanization. Thus, China is seen to have greater capacity, capability and responsibility for taking on climate commitments. The country is facing great pressure both inside and outside international climate negotiations to be more ambitious in combating global climate change (Zhang, 2010a, 2010b, 2011a). Clearly, China, from its own perspective cannot afford to and, from an international perspective, is not meant to continue on the conventional path of encouraging economic growth at the expense of the environment. Instead, a range of environmental concerns and pressures has sparked China’s determination to improve energy efficiency and to increase the use of clean energy in order to help its transition to a low-carbon economy (Zhang, 2010c). Improvements in energy efficiency are particularly important in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as they offer winwin options at a relatively low cost compared to other options. Figure 4.1 and Table 4.1 show the historical contributions of inter-fuel switching, energy conservation, economic growth and population expansion to China’s CO2 emissions during the period 1980–2007.2 China achieved a quadrupling of its GDP with only a doubling of energy consumption between 1980 and 2000 (Zhang, 2003). Following the trends of the 1980s and 1990s, the US EIA (2004) estimated that China’s CO2 emissions were not expected to catch up with the world’s largest carbon emitter until 2030. However, China’s energy use had surged...
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