24 March 2017 Climate Change Newsletter
Biennial Report on climate change and the ‘Two Meetings’
China’s announcement of a total energy consumption cap of 5 tons of coal equivalent comes after the success of the 12th Five-Year Plan from an energy perspective, in which energy and carbon targets were met and surpassed. Between 2011 and the end of 2015, energy intensity fell by 18.2% and carbon intensity declined 20%. These declines are due in large part to the drop in coal consumption: down 3.7% in 2015, following a 2.9% decrease in 2014. The total from all sources of energy in 2015 was 4.3 billion tons of coal equivalent, an increase of less than 1% from the previous year. This markedly slowed consumption, coupled with the decline in heavy industry, suggests that achieving a 5 billion metric ton energy cap will not be challenging.
Looking to the coming five years, China’s targets again seem easily manageable, and also put the nation in a good position to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which China signed in December 2015. Under the 13th Five Year Plan, China plans to reduce energy intensity by 15%. Demonstrating that non-fossil energy sources are becoming a more important part of the Chinese economy, the carbon intensity target of 18% is now a full three percentage points higher than the energy intensity target. In other words, while five-sixths of the carbon target will be achieved by improving energy efficiency and the shift from heavy industry to less energy-intensive sectors, the remaining one-sixth will rely on the rapid growth in renewable and nuclear energy. This is a significant increase in the importance of non-fossil fuel from previous five-year plan targets, in which there was only a one-percentage-point difference in the two targets.
First Biennial Update Report on Climate Change
In January 2017, the Chinese government submitted its First Biennial Update Report on Climate Change to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The Report provides a comprehensive reflection of China's national conditions on climate change. It also fulfills China’s obligations under the UNFCCC. The main content covered by this report is as follows.
·National circumstances and institutional arrangements for addressing climate change
The Report reiterates that China is a country with a huge population, complex climate and vulnerable eco-environment, and one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate change. As the largest developing country, China attaches great importance to the issue of global climate change by integrating its consideration into the national economic and social development planning, and considers low-carbon development to be the a basic path for eco-civilization. Leading groups on climate change and inter-departmental coordination agencies in central and local governments have been set up to robustly address climate change.
·National greenhouse gas inventory
The Chinese government compiled a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in 2005 and 2012; the latter is more complete and comparable. Following the UNFCCC, the Inventory of 2012 covers six gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) from energy, industrial processes, agriculture, land-use change and forestry and waste. Activity data are mainly from official statistics, while emission factors are mainly from the 2012 China’s country-specific parameters. The inventory is given in Table 1.
Table 1. GHG inventory of China in 2020 (100 Mt CO2 eq)
·Mitigation actions and their effects
The Report traces the history of the centering of climate change in national planning in 2010. In the 12th and 13th Five-Year periods, climate change actions have been set as major strategies in national economic and social development. This section divides these climate actions into 6 different aspects and describes specific tasks in each aspect.
In terms of energy conservation and efficiency improvement, it includes strengthening the performance assessment of energy conservation, adjusting and optimizing the industrial structure, implementing key energy-conservation projects, improving economic incentive policies for energy conservation, improving energy efficiency standards and labelling, promoting energy conservation technologies and products, and promoting transport energy conservation. Efforts for optimizing the energy mix includes strict control of total coal consumption, speeding-up the development of clean energy including natural gas, and promoting non-fossil fuel development. Practices in industrial processes, agriculture, and the waste sector that are involved in the control of GHG emissions from non-energy activities are summarised. With regards to increasing carbon sinks, actions involve acceleration of afforestation and greening, implementation of forest management, enhancement of forest disaster control, and development of marine blue carbon sinks. In addition, the piloting and demonstration of low-carbon development serves an important role in climate actions, and includes launching low-carbon province and city pilots, advancing local carbon emission trading pilots, launching low-carbon industrial parks and community pilots, and advancing other low-carbon piloting and demonstration projects. These actions are supported by the international Clean Development Mechanism.
·Finance, technology and capacity-building needs and support received
Finance, technology and capacity building mark an essential part of addressing climate change and this section summarizes the domestic inputs, support received from developed countries, and future needs.
Over the 2010-2014 period, a total of 821.07 billion Yuan was spent from the state budgetary fund to support actions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. As well, China received financial support from the GEF, Annex I Parties and international organizations. Over the next 15 years, from an estimation done by China’s National Center for Climate Change (NCSC), there will be a need for additional investment of 30 trillion Yuan or 2 trillion Yuan every year on average: 10 trillion for energy conservation and 20 trillion for low-carbon energy development.
Technology needs are concentrated in five sectors: energy, iron and steel, transportation, building and general technologies.  The World Bank China Climate Technology Needs Assessment Project has documented relevant technologies in agriculture and forestry, water resources, disaster forecast and weather, and urban sectors.
In terms of capacity building needs, they include GHG inventory preparation, statistical accounting systems, adaptation to climate change, local government leadership on climate change issues, carbon emission trading system, and education training and talent cultivation.
·Information on domestic MRV
Since Mar 2011, national governments have laid emphasis on Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems for climate change. Through the establishment of statistical indicator systems for GHG emissions from sectors including energy, industrial processes, agriculture, land-use change and forestry, and waste, China’s sectoral and local statistical and reporting system has been set up and capacity has been gradually improved.
Meanwhile, preparing the national and provincial GHG inventories on a regular basis, accounting for CO2 emission control targets and analysis reports on an annual basis, formulating the guidelines for the preparation of local inventories and key enterprise emissions accounting, and establishing the national direct reporting platform from key enterprises and local online reporting systems have developed a national-provincial-enterprise level emission accounting and reporting system.
As well, efforts have been made to update the provincial government carbon intensity target accountability assessment system, to gradually establish the provincial inventory quality assessment system and the GHG emission verification system for enterprises in key industries. The target-oriented, vertical co-mobilization and clear-cut responsibilities mechanism was strengthened to improve the quality of the provincial and enterprise-specific emission data.
·Hong Kong and Macao SAR response to climate change
As a special administrative region, Hong Kong is characterized by its mild climate, limited natural resources, high population density, highly developed service sector and dynamic activities. It is also a prominent international financial, trading and shipping hub. As with the national inventory, Hong Kong’s GHG inventory was compiled in 2012, as is shown in Table 2.
As well, this section describes Hong Kong’s and Macao’s climate mitigation actions in the energy industry, buildings, transportation, waste management, tree-planting and urban greening, and through international CDM projects, as well as the current results of these actions. Its needs and support received in finance, technology and capacity-building are also summarized in the report.
China places an equal emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation, strengthened research, observation and impact assessment, enhanced international exchanges and policy dialogues to improve the ability to cope with climate change. This section summarizes a number of priority tasks, including stronger support from science and technology, better education, training and media guidance, enhanced cooperation with international organizations and developed countries, and deeper South-South cooperation.
Climate Change issues raised during the NPC & CPPCC meetings
This year, the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) 2017 ran from March 3rd to 15th. According to the Report on the Work of the Government, the Chinese government emphasizes fair, inclusive and balanced diplomatic principles and values. The work report stated that over the past year China has fully promoted diplomacy with Chinese characteristics and made great achievements in promoting and improving the status and rights of China in the international stage. In this era of transformation in the international structure, China serves a leading and influential role and has received considerable attention from the whole world. In terms of climate change issues, China announced its own targets for mitigation actions and promoted international climate negotiations. China also actively participated in climate change cooperation and played an important role in international and regional affairs.
For the first time ever, a senior Chinese leader announced in his work report to the National People’s Congress—his most important formal speech of the year—that environmental violators and those who fail to report such violations will be “severely punished.” Premier Li Keqiang reported that China had succeeded in meeting or exceeding the previous Five-Year Plan’s environmental goals. In the section on environmental governance, though climate change was not listed as one of the six main themes, which were air pollution control, energy conservation, new energy development, soil pollution control, water pollution control, and rural environmental governance, relevant measures are incorporated in the other themes. When it comes to energy conservation, the report indicated that the central, provincial and local governments ought to insist on clean and secure development and the adjustment of the energy structure. At present, it has been hard to reach energy saving goals, as enterprises and residents must jointly make efforts to reduce energy consumption. It is important to establish a new style and create an atmosphere of “energy saving” in the whole society. In terms of the development of renewable energy, remarkable results have been achieved which are beneficial for climate change mitigation. Current problems lie in the constraints of new energy development and technological innovation.
Environmental protection is one of the top issues addressed during China’s political sessions. Awareness of environmental protection and the importance of tackling climate change has obviously improved greatly at the central, provincial and local levels. A series of laws and regulations are expected to be drawn up in the coming year.
 China National Development and Reform Commission. The People’s Republic of China First Biennial Update Report on Climate Change. 2017, 1. Available at: http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/archiver/ccchinacn/UpFile/Files/Default/20170124155928346053.pdf
 NCSC. Notice of future national planning on climate change. 2016, 4. Available at: http://world.people.com.cn/n1/2016/0423/c1002-28298887.html
 World Bank. China Climate Technology Needs Assessment. 2016, Washington, D. C.