AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 370

[ China and Inner Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 370: Is China's climate policy at home better than it is appearing in international negotiations?

Organizer: Doris Fischer, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

China has overtaken the US in terms of absolute CO2 emissions in 2007 and (including Hong Kong) in energy consumption in 2009, according to IEA data. Her relevance for climate change mitigation has become all too obvious. Hence, China has gained importance in the global climate negotiations. However, as Non-Annex I Party, China has not taken any greenhouse gas reduction commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. In the ongoing negotiations for a Post-Kyoto agreement, the Chinese government is unlikely to accept legally binding commitments. However, legislation and industrial policies within China draw a different picture. Numerous initiatives related to climate change mitigation have been started in recent years. In addition, business representatives expect China to become the world’s leader in green technologies. The question arises whether and why China follows a double strategy of being reluctant at the global level while being very ambitious at home. How promising are the national policies initiated, how much will they contribute to climate change mitigation? The panel papers will present a multi-level analysis covering China’s low carbon development dilemma (Chen), structural obstacles for policy implementation (Fischer) and a case study of the building sector (Oberheitmann). The focus of the panel is on discussion with the informed audience. Papers will be circulated in advance. Knowledgeable persons from among the registered conference participants will be encouraged in advance to join the session and contribute to the debate. The panel is part of the ‘Changing China’ multi-session series sponsored by the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.

China's climate change mitigation policies and positions
Ying Chen, Independent Scholar, People's Republic of China

This paper will present the background of China’s climate change mitigation policies and positions, including the new progress to meet the 20% target of energy intensity set for the 11th Five Year Plan and positions in recent climate negotiations. Against this background, the impression may arise that China is following a double strategy with different targets formulated in the national and international arena. However, the paper argues that things are more complicated then they may appear. China’s positions both at home and abroad necessarily concentrate on the developmental needs of the country. Actually, climate change has become one of the greatest challenges for China as it creates the additional need to balance economic development with energy and climate security. The paper will explain and analyze some arguments and even misunderstandings from a Chinese perspective in order to draw a clearer and more comprehensive picture of China’s low carbon development dilemma.

Climate change policies as multi-level, multi-actor processes
Doris Fischer, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

Defining targets for carbon emission reduction in global negotiations and national strategy papers is helpful but not sufficient. The real challenge is to design policies and instruments that ensure the realization of these targets. Academic literature as well as the experience of the EU suggests a mix of institutions and policies to achieve the targets. After reviewing theoretical options, this paper argues that China faces considerable problems in climate change mitigation due to the power of regional governments, large state-owned enterprises and a fragmented national market. Within the presentation I will analyse how these features of the political and economic system hinder the development of national policy frameworks such as an Emission Trading System, feed-in tariffs for renewable energies, as well as the complex bargaining processes among different political constituencies and ‘big business’ actors that the Chinese system facilitates. I argue that the structural limitations of the political and economic system also hinder the implementation of policies at the regional and local level. The Chinese government has faced enormous difficulties to achieve the climate change related goals formulated within the 11th FYP and finally recurred to administrative measures such as closure of enterprises on short notice. Due to the characteristics of the Chinese political and economic system, prospects for the realization of current, much more ambitious goals in climate change mitigation are dismal. Hence, I argue that the Chinese government’s reluctance to make binding commitments in the global negotiations is a result of structural domestic difficulties.

CO2-emission reduction in the building sector and contribution to China's climate change mitigation targets
Andreas Oberheitmann, Tsinghua University, Germany

Buildings are among the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. More than 40 percent of global energy use and as much as one third of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to buildings. In rapidly developing countries like China, building related emissions are particularly fast growing due to increasing urbanization rates and rising requirements towards living standards and comfort. Drastic measures to improve the energy performance in buildings and to pave the way for “low carbon cities” are needed to reach a sustainable greenhouse gas trajectory. In Copenhagen, the Chinese government obliged itself to a reduction of CO2-intensity of 40-45% in 2020 compared to 2005. The question is, how much energy efficiency enhancement measures and the promotion of renewable energy in the building sector can contribute to this target. If the Kyoto Protocol finds a successor, flexible mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Programme of Activities may support this policy as it can help to reduce investment barriers. Using an econometric model, the paper estimates the development of residential energy demand and CO2-emissions until 2050, the impact of energy efficiency enhancement measures and the promotion of renewable energy in the building sector. Against the background of the importance of the building sector, the results will be compared to China’s domestic climate change mitigation targets.