Historical emissions data excl. the LULUCF sector for all GHGs was obtained from the PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series and covers the period from 1990 to 2022 (Gütschow and Pflüger, 2023). This gas-by-gas breakdown by sector: energy, industrial process, agriculture, and waste. 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 accounting 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).
Current policy projections
For our current policy projections (CPP), we establish a conservative (CPP max) and optimistic (CPP min) range based on different scenarios projecting the development of China’s energy sector based on policies and developments.
For the CPP max, we start with the IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2022 Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) —which for China we take as a basis for the current policies scenario as stated policies are highly certain to be achieved in the country— and calculate total primary energy demand (TPED) based on the Chinese methodology of applying the average efficiency of coal-fired power plants to calculate TPED from non-fossil sources (renewables and nuclear) (IEA, 2022b). We start with an efficiency of 305.5 grams coal equivalent (gce) per kWh (around 8.9 MJ/kWh for Chinese coal-fired power plants), based on NDRC (2021), which improves over time to 300 gce/kWh in 2025 and 295 gce/kWh in 2030 based on a conservative scenario from IEA (2021b).
The scenario assumes that China meets a range of policy targets including:
- Reduce CO2 intensity of economy by 18% from 2021 to 2025
- Reduce energy intensity of economy by 13.5% from 2021 to 2025
- 20% non-fossil share of energy mix by 2025
- 25% non-fossil share of energy mix by 2030
- 3300 TWh of renewables by 2025
- Over 50% of incremental electricity consumption is met by renewables (from 2021-2025)
- Made in China 2025 targets for industrial energy intensity
- Reduce comprehensive energy consumption per tonne of steel by 2% by 2025
- Emissions from steel sub‐sector peak before 2030
- Standard for maximum energy consumption per square metre in buildings
- Green and High‐Efficiency Cooling Action Plan
- Minimum performance standards and energy efficiency labelling for room air conditioners
- Meets and exceeds targets from the China Society of Automotive Engineers for new energy vehicles to reach 20% of new vehicle sales in 2025
- Corporate average fuel consumption target of 4.0 litres/100 km for 2025 and 3.2 litres/100 km for 2030
- New Energy Automobile Industry Development Plan (2021‐2035)
- Extension of purchase tax exemption and subsidies for new energy vehicles
- National railway investments
The CPP max scenario is adjusted to meet the above 2025 policy targets. In addition, we quantify an additional set of domestic policies below, assuming China only meets these targets without significantly achieving them:
- 39% non-fossil share in electricity generation for 2025 from the 14th FYP on energy (NDRC and NEA, 2022)
- 12% gas in primary energy supply in 2030 (Chow and Singh, 2021)
- 50% renewable energy capacity by 2025 (SASAC, 2021)
- 33% of total electricity generation from renewables (18% excluding hydro) (32%) (NDRC, 2022)
- 50% non-fossil share in electricity generation target by 2030 (Asia Pacific Energy, no date)
We also revise total primary energy demand (TPED) projections for 2025 upwards to around 6.3 billion tonnes of coal equivalent, in line with estimates from Chinese researchers assessing the 14th FYP on energy and updated electricity demand projections (estimated median of 10,000TWh of electricity consumption) from EPPEI (NDRC and NEA, 2022; CEC, 2023b). The gas share target from the Energy Supply and Consumption Revolution Strategy (2016-2030) is revised down from 15% to 12% to align with China National Petroleum Corporation forecasts and extended to 2035, given the rapid displacement of coal is delayed in the wake of national energy security focus and growing coal consumption projections (Chow and Singh, 2021). 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).
For the CPP min scenario, we instead start with the latest updated IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2023 Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS). This is deemed as an optimistic end of the CPP as it is an ambitious interpretation of current policies and achieves China’s NDC targets. Given that China’s NDC targets are now subsumed under domestic policies, and that China’s current policy developments are highly likely to overachieve its targets, we employ this as a minimum bound. Similar to the max scenario, we calculate total primary energy demand (TPED) based on the Chinese methodology of applying the average efficiency of coal-fired power plants to calculate TPED from non-fossil sources (renewables and nuclear).
In addition to the policies in the max scenario and NDC targets, the CPP min additionally integrates a measure stipulating a doubling in wind and solar generation (from 2021-2025) (L. Wang, 2022). This scenario describes a different projection of China’s energy system, now freed from the national shift from dual-energy to dual-carbon controls (no longer limiting energy demand growth in guidance to policymakers and developers).
This scenario shows a growing energy demand off the back of an accelerated power sector transformation: energy demand is met by an exponential rise in renewable (wind and solar) development and integration. Renewables can both meet the rise of demand and also displace fossil fuels, namely coal consumption which drops steeply to 2030. Compared to the CPP max, the CPP min also prevents a turn to fossil gas in end-use sectors such as buildings (heating) and industry (iron and steel) due to increased electrification. In the CPP min, renewables supply over 1,000 TWh of electricity and 250 Mtoe of energy more in 2030 compared to the CPP max, with over 200 GW of storage capacity more being built.
The CPP min overachieves all 2025 and 2030 targets so no additional policies are quantified. Additionally, the projected 12% gas share in consumption is also dropped due to the accelerated transition to electrification of end-use sectors.
In both scenarios, supply-side targets such as the production capacity of fossil fuels and installed capacity targets from the 14th FYP on energy are not considered binding as these policies will likely result in excess capacity with uncertain outcomes for emissions.
After integrating the aforementioned policies into the energy sector results, we calculate energy sector emissions using IEA WEO STEPS (2022b, 2023c) emission factors for fossil fuels in both scenarios and account for developments in carbon, capture and storage (CCS) (after 2030.
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 2022 value estimates. CO2 emissions for industry peak have been revised to peak in 2025, five years earlier than China’s building materials peaking plan (MIIT of China, NDRC, MEE, et al., 2022). According to the China Cement Association, it is predicted that cement clinker will reach peak consumption and production during the "14th FYP" period (2021-2025), with its carbon emissions declining after peaking at approximately 1.45 billion tons (Zhang, 2021).
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 2022 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. We additionally quantify the impacts of the Kigali Amendment on HFCs following the staged phaseout schedule eventually leading to an 80% reduction from baseline levels by 2045.
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. For the quantification of all targets, we also incorporate achievement of the demand-side policies in China’s current policies pathway (CPP).
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.
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 simply peak by 2030 while a more ambitious interpretation would be to assume that this peaking happens earlier at an arbitrary date. According to our current policy projections, China’s emissions are due to peak around 2025 in both scenarios but either roughly plateau (CPP max) or drop (CPP min). The quantification of the peaking target range is equivalent to the emissions level in our CPP in 2030.
China’s NDC non-fossil target has been increased to 25% in 2030 in its updated NDC while China’s 14th FYP includes the now intermediary target of 20% by 2025. In our CPP projections, China is projected to overachieve these targets comfortably.
To calculate energy-related CO2 emissions based on the 2030 target, we:
- Recalculate the total primary energy demand (TPED) from IEA WEO (2022b, 2023c) STEPS
- Align TPED to the CPP scenarios. Technology shares for non-fossil sources are decreased to achieve the 25% share target (no more, no less), while coal and gas are assumed to replace the gap from decreased non-fossil sources
- Adjust individual non-fossil energy sources equally based on their relative share of non-fossil energy demand in the CPP
Renewable Capacity Target:
The NDC includes a target of 1,200 GW of wind and solar installed by 2030. In our CPP range, China is projected to overachieve this target comfortably for both technologies. To quantify emission levels under this target, solar and wind capacity is revised downward to 1,200 GW in total according to their respective ratio expected in 2030. Under this target achievement, we only expect approximately 460 GW of wind power and 740 GW of solar PV installed in China. Like the quantification of the non-fossil share target, other elements are assumed to be the same as the CPP. For example, other supply technologies are expected to supply the same amount of power. Overall primary energy demand in the country is also assumed to be the same as the CPP. We assume that the difference in energy supplied (less wind and solar) is supplied by coal and gas. Given that fossil fuel capacity is not replaced by wind and solar one-for-one, overall power capacity in China’s energy system decreases with the achievement of this target.
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 and historical GDP data from China’s Statistical Yearbook up to 2018 (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 latest official growth rates from the Chinese government (rather than absolute numbers), validated by international organisations such as the World Bank and IMF, to establish data until the latest historical year. GDP projections until 2030 are mainly based off IMF (2023) until 2028 and supplemented with near-term forecasts from a mix of domestic and international sources (thus establishing an optimistic and pessimistic range for growth). We also integrate the underlying GDP forecast from WEO STEPS 2022 and 2023 as part of the range (IEA, 2023c). We assume that the carbon intensity target applies to all CO2 emissions excluding LULUCF. The emissions quantification for carbon intensity targets changes annually, due to updated forecasts in China’s GDP trajectory.
|Energy-related NDC targets
|Overview of Key Assumptions
• Share of non-fossil energy in TPED reaches 25% in 2030 but does not exceed the benchmark.
• Non-fossil demand to reach this target depends on all non-fossil technologies equally. The weight of individual non-fossil energy technologies within non-fossil energy share are assumed to be equivalent as the CPP, but the non-fossil share of TPED differs. I.e. If nuclear makes up 10% of non-fossil energy in the CPP, it will also make up 10% of total non-fossil energy share (revised to 25% in the target scenario).
• Non-fossil energy target is assumed to exclude traditional biomass given it emits emissions when combusted and makes up minimal demand in the Chinese energy system.
• Since the NDC target is less ambitious than the CPP, all demand for non-fossil energy will be smaller in the target scenario
• Differences in the share of non-fossil energy in the target scenario and CPP is assumed to be displaced or replaced with coal and gas.
• No specific year is assumed to peak “before 2030” given the vague nature of the target. Thus, we interpret this target as following the CPP projections, with carbon dioxide peaking in 2030.
• According to our CPP projections, carbon dioxide peaks around 2025.
|Renewable Capacity Target:
• Total GW installed for solar and wind technologies, per specified in the target, are set (lowered) to a total of 1,200 GW in 2030.
• The 1,200 GW for wind and solar is distributed across the two technologies according to their comparative shares projected in the CPP. Both technologies retain the same capacity factors in the target scenario as in the CPP, meaning they are assumed to generate an equivalent ratio of electricity per GW installed as in the CPP.
• Total electricity and energy generated to satisfy demand is equivalent to the CPP.
• Differences in energy demand from renewables in the target scenario and CPP is assumed to be displaced or replaced with coal and gas.
A note on the global aggregation:
China’s rating is based on the two NDC emissions targets which are estimated to have the lowest emission levels: the lower end of the carbon intensity target in 2030, which is equivalent to the emissions trajectory under China’s current policies, and the upper end of the peaking target (which is the CPP max). We employ this method as we try to capture the likely range of China’s emissions levels when achieving their NDC, but there is uncertainty on absolute emission levels as China has several targets: China’s peaking target is guaranteed to be achieved by definition, but which of China’s remaining NDC targets is achieved (or if they all are) is uncertain.
We exclude the most pessimistic interpretations—target with the highest expected emissions—as we would be assuming they emit more than the CPP analysis shows. We also do not take only the most optimistic interpretation—lower bound of China’s carbon intensity target— as this is not constrained target (fluctuating year to year depending on economic forecasts). If we only took one target, we would then be assuming China’s other quantitative targets are completely null. The emission levels of all of China’s targets are dependent on future developments (e.g., growth in energy consumption, GDP). We thus take a median approach to capture the middle range (median) of the two most stringent targets to be conservative: the minimum of the carbon intensity target and the next most ambitious target, the peaking target.
Mid-Century Long-Term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy
The officially-submitted LTS appears to confirm the commitment covers only carbon dioxide emissions. Due to the 2060 timeframe extending past our scope of analysis, as well as insufficient details in intermediary targets to reach the carbon neutrality target, we take a simplified linear approach for China’s pathway to carbon neutrality.
Emissions until 2030 are established through our current policy projections. For CO2, we assume a linear decarbonisation to zero in 2060 from 2030 levels. For non-CO2, we assume a more conservative phaseout path to zero in 2080 from 2030 levels. Although the government is seemingly pursuing expansion of China’s carbon sinks in the LULUCF sector, they do not provide modelling details on the level of its sinks in 2060. Thus, we assume constant LULUCF sinks until 2060 of approximately -780 MtCO2e based off a 10-year historical average from its latest inventory year (until further details are made available), which is consistent with modelled forestry carbon sinks from He et al (2021)’s 2°C and 1.5°C scenarios. China’s resulting emissions in 2060 (excl. LULUCF) is then assumed to be the addition of CO2 (offset with LULUCF sinks) and leftover non-CO2 GHGs. The pathway for all GHG emissions from 2030 to the emissions in 2060 is linearly interpolated.
As we now use baseline data that already captures impacts from COVID-19, we apply no further methods to estimate COVID-19 related changes in greenhouse gas emissions for China 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).