What constitutes meaningful participation from China?: An analysis of the Chinese intensity targets

Discussion Paper
What constitutes meaningful participation from China?: An analysis of the Chinese intensity targets

On 22 September 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke at the UN Climate Change Summit that “(China is) to significantly reduce CO2 emissions per GDP (CO2 intensity) from 2005 level by 2020”. Around the same time, a government-related think tank in China published scenario analysis report that provided actual numbers to support such CO2 intensity target. These were the messages from China to the international community that could be recognised as the Chinese commitment for international climate negotiation.
The “low-carbon scenario” discussed in the above scenario analysis report is to reduce intensity by 57% in 2020, and to peak emissions in 2035, then to decline thereafter. This scenario can be interpreted, in terms of absolute value, as a 22% emission reduction from BAU scenario in 2020, which can fulfill what EU requested to China (16% reduction from BAU by 2020) in order to control the global temperature increase to 2 degrees C from the level before the industrial revolution. If China is to reduce its emissions by just 16% from BAU in 2020, the necessary reduction in terms of CO2 intensity will be a 53% reduction from the level of 2005.
The “low-carbon scenario” presumes that China will control CO2 emissions mainly by iron and steel production adjustment and power system structural reform up to 2020, and by rapid and large scale introduction of advanced technologies including IGCC (Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle power generation) and CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) after 2030. Moreover, it presumes that China’s per capita GDP will reach the 2005 level of developed countries by 2050, while its per capita energy consumption, CO2 emissions, power usage, and production and stock of iron and cement in 2050 will be lower than the 2005 level of developed countries.
Today, China is rapidly adopting energy-related taxation, making the end prices of coal for power generation and electric power for industry use at the same or higher level than those of developed countries in 2006. For iron and steel products and cement products, China has implemented voluntary export control by imposing export taxes equivalent to the level of border tax adjustment or carbon pricing under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
Nevertheless, if China is to further promote low-carbonisation of the economy in the future and is to act as a political/economical superpower in the international society, it is essential to further strengthen existing regulations and to provide economic incentives, in addition to cooperating with the international community. At the same time, China and the international community need to further deepen thorough communication.

Li Zhi Dong
Lu Xiang Chun