Handbook on Energy and Climate Change
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Handbook on Energy and Climate Change

Edited by Roger Fouquet

This timely Handbook reviews many key issues in the economics of energy and climate change, raising new questions and offering solutions that might help to minimize the threat of energy-induced climate change.
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Chapter 31: At the crossroads: can China grow in a low-carbon way?

Julien Chevallier


Are economic growth and climate change compatible? This chapter addresses this question from the angle of China, the world’s fastest-growing economy, where environmental considerations are necessarily becoming a burning issue. Given that it is responsible for 19 per cent of global CO2 emissions in 2005, and is the largest emitter, future climate change will be affected by the economy’s ability to stabilize and reduce emissions. More importantly, because China is becoming a global economic leader and is a centrally planned economy, its path is likely to influence the behaviour of other economies. Against this background, we attempt – through a narrative literature review – to assess whether a transition to a low-carbon economy seems feasible in China, given several aspects of its energy consumption and production. The concept of a ‘low-carbon economy’ is defined by Jiang et al. (2010) as an economy that has a minimal output of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the biosphere, that is, an economic model based on small energy consumption, low environmental pollution, and low-carbon emissions. It also entails changes in the country’s industrial structure and people’s conceptions. Among the key drivers of the low-carbon economy, Carbon Capital (2010) identifies equipments and infrastructures that enable energy efficiency or alternative energy production and use, leading to a reduction of carbon emissions, directly or indirectly (such as smart buildings, smart grids, renewable energy, biofuel vehicles, electric vehicle charging systems etc.).

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