Part 1: China's Low-Carbon City Plans
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 presents low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 will explore some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 will present some possible solutions to these challenges.
Worldwide, cities are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of total energy consumption, and account for approximately the same proportion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As elsewhere, the growth of investment, consumption, and trade in China’s cities has been a major driver not only of economic growth, technological advances, and human development, but also of energy use and GHG emissions. In contrast to most western cities, where most emissions come from buildings and transport, industry still plays a major role in Chinese cities’ GHG emissions. Ongoing massive investment in urban infrastructure, as well as changing urban lifestyles, will also play a determining role in the future trajectory of China’s GHG emissions.
Because of China’s size, its national strategies and policies are typically interpreted and implemented at provincial and municipal levels. Key decisions regarding investment and consumption also take place at the local level. Cities, therefore, are crucial leverage points for implementation of national climate and energy strategies and policies in China.