Overall rating
Highly insufficient
Policies & actions
< 3°C World
Domestic target
< 3°C World
Fair share target
Highly insufficient
< 4°C World
Climate finance
Not assessed
Net zero target


Before 2060

Comprehensiveness rated as

Land use & forestry
Not significant

Historical emissions

Historical emissions data excl. the LULUCF sector for all GHGs were obtained from the PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series and cover the period from 1990 to 2018 (Gütschow, J.; Günther, A.; Jeffery, L.; Gieseke, 2021). This includes CO2 and non-CO2 breakdown of energy, industrial process, agriculture, and waste sectors. For 2019 and 2020 values, we apply a gas-by gas approach. For direct CO2 emissions, we apply growth rates from Global Carbon Project (2020) from 2018-2019 and assume a growth rate of 1.2% for 2020 across all sectors, an average value in the range of other early emissions growth estimates (Grant et al., 2021; IEA, 2021; Myllyvirta, 2021) . We deviate from using Global Carbon Project for 2020 as they estimated a decrease in Chinese emissions, which we find implausible. For energy and industry non-CO2, we assume emissions growth aligns with growth in GDP, 2.3% in 2020, which is taken from IMF (due to a longer forecast) but validated with official Chinese Natural Bureau Statistics. For Agriculture and Waste non-CO2 emissions, we extrapolate the last 5-year average from historic emissions.

Historical emissions data for the LULUCF sector are based on the Chinese inventory as submitted to the UNFCCC for the years 1994, 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2014 and is not extrapolated onwards due to uncertainties (Government of China, 2018).

As of September 2018, the CAT uses 100-year Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

NDC and other targets

For China’s updated NDC targets, we quantify the non-fossil target, the peaking target, the carbon intensity target, and renewable energy capacity target separately. China’s rating is based on the non-fossil (upper end) and peaking targets (lower end) in 2030 as these are the two most binding targets in the existing NDC. In other words, we exclude the renewable capacity installation and carbon intensity targets from the NDC range, as this will be overachieved by other NDC targets. The updated NDC commitments are currently quantified.

For China’s NDC pathway in our global aggregation, we use a single value to estimate the emissions level if all four NDC targets were met. We use the average of China‘s peaking and non-fossil share targets (13.6 GtCO2e) as they are the most binding targets and the most realistic emissions trajectory is captured within the range. We do not use one target in isolation but take the average for two reasons: 1) because a carbon peak is not captured within the non-fossil share target and thus emissions would be overestimated if taking the non-fossil target, and 2) the peaking target is captured within the ambitious end of our current policies scenario that assumes optimistic energy sector developments, and thus, emissions would be underestimated if taking the peaking target.

The elements of China’s targets that we quantify apply to CO2 only (excl. LULUCF), given the scope of the targets. To calculate total GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF), we add non-CO2 emissions based on our current policies projections as described below.

Non-Fossil Targets:

China’s 2020 pledge aims for a 15% share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy demand; the first NDC target increased this to 20%, which has now been usurped by a 25% target in the proposed update. We assume that this target excludes biofuels from primary energy demand.

To calculate energy-related CO2 emissions based on this target, we:

  • Recalculate the total primary energy demand from the WEO 2019 Current Policies Scenario (CPS) (WEO 2020 does not include a CPS) based on the Chinese methodology of applying the average efficiency of coal-fired power plants to calculate total primary energy demand from non-fossil sources (renewables and nuclear). We assume an efficiency of 310 grams coal equivalent (gce) per kWh (equals 9.08 MJ/kWh for Chinese coal-fired power plants), based on China’s target for 2020 from the 13th Five Year Plan.
  • Adjust the total primary energy demand to satisfy major current policies and targets quantified (see section below).
  • Calculate emissions based on emissions factors calculated from emissions and total primary energy demand from WEO 2019.
  • Assume any additional action beyond current policies needed to reach this target will be accomplished by prioritising energy supply from solar and wind technologies at the expense of coal.

Peaking Target:

Since the NDC contains the target of peaking CO2 emissions before 2030, the implications for what an “NDC scenario” constitutes can be interpreted in a variety of ways—for instance, the least ambitious way would be to assume emissions keep rising and simply peak in 2030 while a more ambitious interpretation would be to assume that this peaking happens earlier at an arbitrary date. Given no national indications of an intent to peak well before 2030, we assume the former. We take the peak level of our minimum current policies scenario as the lower bound of CO2 emissions under the NDC range. We assume that the peaking target for CO2 emissions includes both energy and non-energy CO­2 emissions.

Renewable Capacity Target:

The proposed NDC’s 1,200 GW of renewables installed by 2030 target is made up of solar and wind technologies, as prescribed during the announcement. In the high emissions end of our current policies scenario, China is projected to miss this target by over 30 GW of wind and almost 60 GW of solar PV. After filling the RE gap in the current policies scenario with solar and wind, we project the energy generated using the same emission and capacity factors in 2030 as under current policies and assume the clean generation displaces energy from coal, given the trend in high-level policy signals. We assume total energy demand is equivalent to that under our current policy scenarios, although overall power capacity increases since RE capacity does not replace coal capacity 1:1.

Carbon Intensity Targets:

For the calculation of the intensity targets for 2020 and 2030, we use historical emissions data from China’s most recent inventory submission to the UNFCCC, historical GDP data from China’s most recent Statistical Yearbook and GDP projections from our current policies scenario (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2018). For historical years after 2018, we deviate from official Chinese data due to annual inconsistencies; we now apply growth rates from the World Bank to establish data for latest historical year. GDP projections until 2030 are based off forecasts from various sources and described in “COVID-19” section below. We assume that the carbon intensity target applies to all CO­2 emissions. The emissions quantification for carbon intensity targets changes annually, due to updated historical data and forecasts in China’s GDP trajectory from COVID-19 and otherwise.

Policies & action

Energy-related CO2 emissions:

We create two scenarios for energy-related CO­2 emissions, a minimum and a maximum scenario.

For the high emissions scenario (higher bound), we start with the WEO (2019) Current Policies Scenario, which meets China’s 58% cap on coal in the primary energy supply in 2020 and exceeds the 15% non-fossil share component of China’s 2020 pledge. However, these projections do not achieve several prominent targets:

- 20% non-fossil share in 2025 (missed by 3%);

- 10% gas in primary energy supply in 2020 (missed by 3%), and 15% in 2030 (missed by 5%);

- 50% renewable energy capacity by 2025 (missed by 2%); and

- 35% electricity generation from renewables in 2030 (missed by 1%)

The high emissions scenario is adjusted to meet all the above targets, revising the emissions pathway downward. Most of these targets are newly quantified due to being new policies (e.g. 14th FYP) or because we had previously deemed them implausible (e.g. 15% gas in TPED in 2030 seemed unlikely before high-level targets to reduce coal). In the projections gas is assumed to replace coal 1:1, as coal-to-gas switching is seen to be primarily driven by industry and buildings sectors, rather than in the power sector (Cornot-Gandolphe, 2019). While many targets have updates forthcoming or already in drafting stage, we only adjust for policies already implemented.

The scenario does not pass China’s cap on total primary energy demand (TPED) targets of 5 billion tonnes coal equivalent in 2020 and 6 billion tonnes in 2030, but we choose not to quantify this as it is unlikely China achieves both this target and its gas targets. Under this scenario, energy-related CO2 emissions continue to increase, reaching 10.1 GtCO2 in 2030. For CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, values in the IEA WEO 2019 Current Policies Scenario were adjusted using the primary energy factors for renewable energy and nuclear power used in the Chinese accounting (different from IEA accounting).

For the lower bound of the scenario, we adjust electricity capacity and generation outlook for renewables to the Stated Policies Scenario (SPS) from the China Renewable Energy Outlook 2020 (CREO) (ERI & NDRC, 2021). We take the decision to include results from the SPS from CREO as the ambitious end of the current policies projections since China has a history of achieving the targets and policies it announces, as well as its centralised governance and planning structure. As in the higher bound, we adjust the primary energy supply to meet current policies, although the CREO already meets all targets aside from the gas and total consumption targets. This scenario exceeds China’s proposed target of 35% electricity generation from renewables in 2030, reaching 44% in 2030. This is comparable to other modelling scenarios where China reaches a 37% share in 2027 (BloombergNEF, 2019b). The scenario also reaches 24% non-fossil share in 2025 and 51% of renewable power capacity. Thus, the scenario is adjusted to meet the gas targets only. Coal consumption begins to decrease after 2025 in both ranges of current policy scenarios.

Industrial-process emissions:

We project industrial-process CO2 emissions by applying growth rates from cement process emissions for the non-OECD region based on the IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 report’s 6DS scenario to our latest 2020 value estimates.

Other non-CO2 emissions:

For non-CO2 emissions from energy, fugitive emissions, agriculture, industrial processes, and waste, we apply sector-specific growth rates for non-CO2 emissions from (Lin et al., 2019) to our latest 2020 value estimates. This source considers recent policies implemented since 2015, leading to improved certainty on Chinese non-CO2 emissions in 2030, compared to previous assessments. The reference scenario used assumes that no non-CO2 mitigation measures will be implemented before 2050, except for efforts made to reach the Montreal Protocol targets for HFCs from HCFC-22 production, which are phased out. Other HFCs are assumed to grow without further implemented policies.

COVID-19 impact

We applied a novel method to estimate the COVID-19 related dip in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and its impact until 2030. The uncertainty surrounding the severity and length of the pandemic creates a new level of uncertainty for current and future greenhouse gas emissions.

For emissions between 2020 and 2030, we first update the current policy projections using most recent projections, usually prepared before the pandemic. We then distil the emission intensity (GHG emissions/GDP) from this pre-pandemic scenario and apply to it most recent GDP projections that consider the effect of the pandemic. To capture a wide range, we usually use more than one GDP projection. For China, we have updated the following projections for 2021 GDP growth using China’s national 2021 GDP target of 6% (Q. Zhou, 2021), IMF’s (2021) 8.4%, Oxford Economics (2021) 8.9%, and Bloomberg Economics (2021) 9.3% projections. The most recent GDP projections only provide values until 2026 (IMF); we then use the GDP growth rate that was used as a basis for the original pre-pandemic current policy scenario (WEO) until 2030.

Global Warming Potentials

The CAT uses Global Warming Potential (GWP) values from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) for all its figures and time series. Assessments completed before December 2018 (COP24) used GWP values from the Second Assessment Report (SAR).

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