China’s 2020 Clean Energy Target: Consistency, Pathways and Policy Implications

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China has proposed its 2020 clean energy target together with the climate change target of reducing CO2 intensity of the economy by 40–45% below the 2005 level. This article investigates the feasibility of these targets by testing their consistency under possible economic development scenarios. We analyse these targets from two perspectives: consistency with the overall economic growth and consistency with the international society's expectation on China's greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement responsibilities. The main findings are: under the recently announced 2020 target of gross domestic product (GDP) that is double the 2010 level, the adoption of a 15% clean energy target could result in excessive primary energy demand; and then with 40–45% GDP CO2 intensity reduction, CO2 emissions in 2020 could substantially exceed the International Energy Agency (IEA) 450 ppm scenario for China. Thus we propose a 17% clean energy target that can reconcile the domestic plan with international expectation. Our article also outlines the pathways to realise clean energy development into 2020 and proposes policy recommendations.

Research Areas: 
Clean energy development
CO2 emissions
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Energy Policy
Date Published: 
February 2014
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Full Citation: 
Yuan, Jiahai, Yan Xu, Xingping Zhang, Zheng Hu, Ming Xu (2014) “China’s 2020 clean energy target: consistency, pathways and policy implications.” Energy Policy 65:692-700.
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