The Shift to Synergies in China’s Climate Planning: Aligning Goals with Policies and Institutions

Peer-reviewed Article
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China has long sought to address climate change in line with other development goals. However, research supporting this alignment often employs data-driven models that downplay the policies and institutions needed to achieve the multiple benefits that studies feature in their analyses. This oversight is troubling because it neglects gaps between goals and the actual integration of climate and development or co-control of air pollution and greenhouse gases (GHGs). Additionally, this oversight may overlook growing implementation challenges as China pursues synergies between net-zero emissions, biodiversity, and circularity. This article illustrates these challenges by tracing the goals and policies/institutions in China over three phases: (1) integration (1979–2010), (2) co-control (2011–2019), and (3) synergies (2020–present). This article argues that China needs to strengthen the science–policy interface and ensure that new market-based policy instruments (such as emissions trading programs) as well as the leadership responsibility system incentivize reductions in overall GHG emissions while shrinking ecological footprints in the shifts to synergies.