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China's Policies on the Environment
Special> United Nations Climate Change Conference> China's Policies on the Environment
UPDATED: June 14, 2008 NO. 25 JUNE 19, 2008
China's National Climate Change Program

1.3 China's Efforts and Achievements in Mitigating Climate Change

As a developing country of responsibility, China is among the first to formulate a national Agenda 21 entitled China's Agenda 21-White Paper on China's Population, Environment and Development in the 21st Century, soon after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, and adopted a series of policies and measures taking into account its specific national circumstances, making positive contribution to the mitigation of climate change.

1.3.1 Restructuring the economy, promoting technology advancement and improving energy efficiency

Beginning from the late 1980s, the Chinese Government paid more and more attention to the change of the economic growth pattern and the restructuring of economy, and integrated the reduction of energy and other resources consumption, the promotion of clean production, and the prevention and control of industrial pollution into its national industrial policies. The industrial structure has been significantly improved through the implementation of a series of industrial policies to accelerate the development of the tertiary industry and restructure the secondary industry. The breakdown of GDP across the primary, secondary and tertiary industries in 1990 was 26.9:41.3:31.8, while in 2005 it was 12.6:47.5:39.9. The share of primary industry declined continuously, and the tertiary grew greatly, especially in sectors such as telecommunication, tourism and finance. The secondary industry has slightly grown in the overall share, but its internal composition has significantly changed, and the proportion of high value-added products has increased due to the rapid development in machinery, information technology and electronic sectors. Such change has brought about significant energy conservation benefits. During the period of 1991-2005, China has achieved an annual GDP growth rate of 10.2 percent with an annual growth rate of 5.6 percent in energy consumption, i.e. with elastic coefficient of energy consumption of about 0.55.

As early as the 1980s, the Chinese Government adopted the principle of "equal treatment to development and conservation with immediate emphasis on the latter," making energy conservation as a matter of strategic importance in energy policy. Energy conservation was effectively promoted through the implementation of the Law on Energy Conservation of the People's Republic of China and relevant regulations, the development of specific energy conservation plans, the adoption and implementation of technology, economic, fiscal and management policies in favor of energy conservation, the development and application of energy efficiency standards and labeling, the encouragement of R&D, demonstration and diffusion of energy-saving technologies, the importing and absorbing of advanced energy-saving technologies, the creation and employment of new energy conservation mechanisms, and the promotion of key energy conservation projects as well. From 1990 to 2005, China's energy intensity (energy consumption per million GDP at constant prices of 2000) went down from 268 to 143 tons of coal equivalent (tce), decreasing by an average annual rate of 4.1 percent. The energy consumption per unit of energy-intensive products in the industrial sector declined strikingly. In 2004, as compared with 1990, for generators with capacity of 6MW and above, the unit energy consumption for thermal power supply decreased from 0.427 kgce/kWh to 0.376 kgce/kWh; comparable energy consumption per ton of steel in key companies decreased from 997 kgce to 702 kgce; and comprehensive energy consumption per ton of cement in medium and large enterprises decreased from 201 kgce to 157 kgce. As calculated on the year by year comparison, during the period of 1991-2005, an accumulated 800 million tce of energy was saved by economy restructuring and energy efficiency improvement, which is equivalent to a reduction of 1.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions, using China's 1994 emission factor of 2.277 tCO2/tce.

1.3.2 Optimizing energy mix by developing low-carbon and renewable energy

Under national policy guidance and with financial support, the share of high grade and clean energy was improved by strengthening the development and utilization of hydropower, nuclear energy, oil, gas and coal-bed methane, and supporting the development and utilization of new and renewable energy including biomass, solar, geothermal and wind power in rural areas, remote areas and other suitable areas. Share of coal in China's primary energy mix decreased from 76.2 percent in 1990 to 68.9 percent in 2005, whereas the shares of oil, gas and hydro power increased from 16.6 percent, 2.1 percent and 5.1 percent in 1990 to 21 percent, 2.9 percent and 7.2 percent in 2005, respectively.

By the end of 2005, the installed capacity of hydropower generation had reached 117GW in China, accounting for 23 percent of the total power generation capacity, and the corresponding power generation was 401 billion kwh, accounting for 16.2 percent of total electricity generation. There were more than 17 million household biogas digesters that generate 6.5 billion cubic meters of biogas annually. Over 1,500 biogas digester construction projects at large and medium scale had been constructed, generating biogas around 1.5 billion cubic meters each year. The installed capacity of biomass generation was about 2GW, among which sugar-cane fired power capacity was about 1.7GW and landfill-powered 0.2GW. The production capacity of ethanol fuel based on crops was 1.02 million ton. More than 60 wind farms were built and connected to the grid with their installed capacity of 1.26GW, and there were also about 200,000 small-scaled wind power generators operating independently with a capacity of 40MW located in remote areas. The total capacity of photovoltaic generation was around 70MW, mainly operating for residential power supply in remote areas. Heat collecting area of existing solar heaters was up to 85 million square meters. In 2005, the utilization of renewable energy in China equaled to 166 million tce (including large hydropower), accounting for 7.5 percent of China's total energy consumption in that year, equivalent to a saving of 380 million tons of CO2 emissions.

1.3.3 Launching national wide tree-planting and afforestation campaign and enhancing ecology restoration and protection

Since the reform and opening up to the outside world, tremendous achievement has been made in tree-planting and afforestation along with the implementation of key forest ecological projects. According to the Sixth National Forest Survey, the acreage of conserved artificial forests in China was 54 million hectares, ranking first in the world, and the amount of growing stock was 1.505 billion cubic meters. Total area of forest coverage in China was 174.91 million hectares, and the percentage of forest coverage increased from 13.92 percent to 18.21 percent during the period from the early 1990s to 2005. In addition to tree-planting and afforestation, China initiated many other policies for ecology restoration and protection, including natural forest protection, reclaiming cultivated land to forest or grassland, pasture restoration and protection, further enhancing the capacity of forest as the sinks of greenhouse gas. Meanwhile, urban green area grew rapidly in China as well. By the end of 2005, the total greening area in the built-up urban area in the whole country reached 1.06 million hectares with a 33 percent green coverage and 7.9 square meters of public greening area per capita. The greening area helps absorbing CO2 in the atmosphere. Estimated by relevant experts, from 1980 to 2005, a total of 3.06 billion tons of CO2 absorption was achieved by afforestation, a total of 1.62 million tons of CO2 absorption by forest management, and 430 million tons of CO2 from deforestation were saved.

1.3.4 Effectively controlling the growth rate of population through family planning

The Chinese Government has made it a basic national policy to carry out family planning all along, and the excessive population growth trend has been brought under effective control. According to the statistics of the United Nations, China's fertility rate was lower than that of other developing countries and the world average as well. In 2005, the birth rate in China was 12.4 per thousand, and the natural growth rate was 5.89 per thousand, dropped by 8.66 and 8.50 permillage points respectively compared to the level of 1990, making China one of the countries with a low fertility rate in the world. As a country with underdeveloped economy, China has accomplished a historic transition in population reproduction pattern from one featuring high birth rate, low death rate and high growth rate to one featuring low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate in a relatively short period of time. Such a change took decades or even up to 100 years for developed countries to realize in the past. Since the implementation of the family planning program, over 300 million births have been averted nationally by 2005. According to the average per capita emissions from the IEA statistics, the averted births have resulted in an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by about 1.3 billion tons in 2005. It is a significant contribution that China achieved in the fields of controlling world population and mitigating GHG emissions.

1.3.5 Strengthening laws and regulations as well as policies and measures relevant to addressing climate change

To address newly-emerging issues in recent years, the Chinese Government has advocated for the Scientific Outlook on Development and Strategic Thoughts of Building a Harmonious Society, and accelerated the building of a resource-conserving and environmentally friendly society, thus further reinforcing the policies and measures relevant to addressing climate change. In 2004, China Medium and Long Term Energy Development Plan Outlines 2004-20 (draft) was approved by the State Council. In the same year, the first China Medium and Long Term Energy Conservation Plan was launched by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). In February 2005, the National People's Congress adopted the Renewable Energy Law of the People's Republic of China, setting out the duties and obligations of the government, enterprises and users in development and utilization of renewable energy and a series of policies and measures, including total volume target, mandatory grid connection, price management regulation, differentiated pricing, special fund, favorable taxing, etc. In August 2005, the State Council issued the Circular on the Immediate Priorities for Building a Conservation-Oriented Society and Several Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Circular Economy. In December 2005, the State Council issued the Decision to Publish and Implement the Interim Provisions on Promoting Industrial Restructuring and the Decision to Strengthen Environmental Protection by Applying the Scientific Outlook on Development. In August 2006, the State Council issued the Decision to Strengthen Energy Conservation. All those documents serve as the policy and legal guarantee to further enhance China's capability in addressing climate change.

1.3.6 Further improving institutions and mechanisms

China established the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change (NCCCC), which presently comprises 17 ministries and agencies. The NCCCC has done lots of work in the formulation and coordination of China's important climate change-related policies and measures, providing guidance for central and local governments' response to climate change. In order to fulfill conscientiously China's commitment under the UNFCCC, beginning from 2001, the NCCCC organized the work on the compilation of the Initial National Communication on Climate Change of the

People's Republic of China, and presented the report to the UNFCCC at the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in December 2004. In recent years, the Chinese Government has strengthened its comprehensive management of energy that is closely related to addressing climate change by establishing a National Energy Leading Group and its office, which has further strengthened its work on energy management. In October 2005, the amended Measures for Operation and Management of Clean Development Mechanism Projects were promulgated by the relevant departments of the government.

1.3.7 Attaching great importance to climate change research and capacity building

The Chinese Government highly values its capability and capacity to support scientific studies and researches on climate change, and constantly enhances them. It has implemented a number of key research projects, such as Study on Forecasting, Impact and Countermeasures of Global Climate Change, Study on Global Climate Change and Environmental Policies, etc. Under the National Climbing Program and the National Key Fundamental Research Program, projects such as Study on Formation and Prediction Theory of Key Climate and Weather Disasters in China, and Study on Carbon Cycle in China's Terrestrial Ecosystems and Its Driving Mechanism were conducted. Under the Innovative Research Program, Carbon Balance Study in China's Land and Offshore Area has been accomplished. Other key projects related to climate change were also conducted, including China's Climate, Sea Level Change and Their Trend and Impact. China's National Assessment Report on Climate Change has been completed. All those studies and researches provide scientific basis for developing national policies to address climate change and for China's participation in negotiations under the UNFCCC. Several projects on international cooperation in Clean Development Mechanism capacity building were also conducted by relevant departments of China.

1.3.8 Strengthening education, training and public awareness on climate change

The Chinese Government always attaches importance to education, training and public awareness on climate change. The Program of Action for Sustainable Development in China in the Early 21st Century states that China will vigorously develop all forms of education at all levels, to enhance the public awareness on sustainable development and their scientific and cultural capacity for their participation in the sustainable development by reinforcing personnel training. In recent years, China has intensified its efforts to promote education, training and public awareness on climate change by organizing various kinds of lectures on climate change basic knowledge, conducting climate change training courses for policy makers at central and provincial levels, and organizing conferences such as Climate Change and Ecological Environment, as well as setting up an official bilingual website on climate change (China Climate Change Info-Net http://www.ccchina.gov.cn) in Chinese and English to provide comprehensive information on climate change. Commendable results have been achieved accordingly.

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