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The Role Of Cities In Meeting China’s Carbon Intensity Goal

Part 3: Methodologies and Analytical Tools for Low-carbon City Planning

This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.

In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presented low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 explored some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 presents different tools to address these challenges.

The Program of Energy and Climate Economics (PECE) at Renmin University of China has developed a toolkit for low carbon city planning based on its experience working at the city level. These analytical tools have been employed in the Asian Development Bank Qingdao Low Carbon City Project (mentioned in part 2 of this series), and are described below.

City Level Greenhouse Gas Accounting

City-level Greenhouse Gas (GHG) accounting is necessary, given the growing percentage of China’s emissions that come from cities. PECE has developed a simplified city-level GHG accounting methodology to calculate energy-related CO2 emissions that is adapted to the data availability and statistical capabilities of Chinese cities.

The calculation process follows four steps:

  1. Researchers calculate total city-level emissions, as well as emissions by sector, (based on municipal energy balance tables and sector-specific energy consumption data) by multiplying the energy data by the appropriate emissions factors. Emissions factors need to be adjusted based on local energy characteristics.
  2. Researchers calculate a more detailed technology-specific and/or service-specific emissions list by multiplying the stock of technologies, the operating quantity of technologies in the municipality, and the emissions factor per unit of operation of the technologies.
  3. Researchers calculate indirect emissions from imported electricity by multiplying the imported electricity by its grid-specific emissions factors.
  4. Researchers compile a GHG inventory based on the calculation results from steps 1 through 3. The resulting inventory presents the total Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions, as well as sector-specific and technology-specific CO2 emissions.

Low-Carbon Development Scenarios Analysis: The LEAP-CLCC Model

Cities in China need tools to weigh the costs and benefits of different policy measures. PECE has redesigned the Long-range Energy Alternative Planning System (LEAP) structure to make it suitable for low-carbon scenario analysis at the municipal level, creating the LEAP-China Low Carbon City (LEAP-CLCC) model.

The model is based on the characteristics of energy use and existing statistical data of Chinese cities. The LEAP-CLCC model is designed to simulate a city-level energy system, calculating the energy demand and CO2 emissions of a given city as well as the emissions reduction potential of different technical solutions under different assumptions of population, economic growth, economic structure, and energy services demand in the future.

The LEAP-CLCC model can simulate the flows of energy and materials in an economy, from the source or supply of primary energy and materials, through conversion into secondary energy and materials, to the delivery of various forms of energy, and to end-use services. From these calculations, the model provides data that forms a basis for the development of city level energy and low carbon development strategies. So far, PECE has applied the LEAP-CLCC model in Guiyang, Qingdao, and other cities. The results of this research are currently under review.

Technology Roadmap Development Method: Marginal Abatement Cost Curve and Technology Learning Curve

Technology is of great significance in meeting urban carbon intensity targets and low-carbon development targets. During the development and implementation of urban low-carbon development strategies, policymakers should include special action plans to promote technology diffusion based on a “technology roadmap” -- a program that determines the best technologies for deployment to help meet specific targets. In order to assist with the development of technology roadmaps, and to promote technology diffusion in urban low-carbon development strategies, PECE has also developed methods for low-carbon technology identification and prioritization.

One method for prioritization of technology options is the use of a marginal abatement cost curve (MAC). With this method, GHG reduction potentials and mitigation costs are estimated by using a detailed technology option database developed using the LEAP-CLCC model. From this data, researchers can calculate a marginal abatement cost curve that presents the GHG emissions reduction of a technology, additional cost of the technology, and maximum potential of stock of this technology in a target year, target sector, and service type. Then the MAC can be used to prioritize mitigation technologies by arranging these technologies according to the net costs or benefits identified by the MAC. The figure below is an example of MAC which PECE has developed in Qingdao.

<p>Marginal abatement cost curve of Qingdao in 2020 (under the 45% Carbon Intensity Reduction Scenario) | Source: Renmin University of China</p>

Marginal abatement cost curve of Qingdao in 2020 (under the 45% Carbon Intensity Reduction Scenario) | Source: Renmin University of China

The key information to support technology selection and the technology roadmap is emissions reduction potential and the cost of different technologies. Because both technology performance and cost change rapidly as new technologies are developed, it is also necessary to incorporate dynamism in technology costs into low-carbon development plans. To address this challenge, PECE has adopted a “Technology Learning Curve” to describe the change in technology characteristics and cost on a long-term time horizon. PECE has built a technology database of 388 low-carbon technologies covering the electricity, transportation, building, ferrous metallurgy, cement, and chemical and petrochemical industry sectors through extensive research and investigation during its previous work, such as the China Human Development Report 2009/10.

The government of China recognizes the importance of a low-carbon development strategy for restructuring its economy and shifting to a sustainable pathway, and cities will play a significant role in catalyzing and facilitating this shift. Several unique characteristics, such as development stage and growth speed, types of emissions targets, key areas of emission reduction, energy statistical and greenhouse gas accounting systems, policy instruments, and energy endowment, distinguish Chinese cities from cities in other countries, particularly in the industrialized west. These characteristics highlight the need for innovative thinking and solutions for low-carbon development pathways for China. A simplified and practical package of analytical tools and methodologies, such as that developed by PECE, is therefore needed to address the unique challenges of Chinese cities.

PECE analytical tools have already been employed in Guiyang, Qingdao, and other Chinese cities to help them shift to a low-carbon trajectory. Scaling up the use of these tools will help China meet its 2020 emissions target pledge by building capacity for GHG accounting, and will facilitate China’s long-term transition to a low-carbon trajectory.

This post is the work of an Open Climate Network partner. The World Resources Institute is not responsible for the content or opinions expressed by the author.

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