In China, sustainable practices have been pursued at a steady pace since the early 1990s. Initially, policies and practices were predominantly driven by a need to secure energy for a vast growing economy and population. Climate change as a focal point later became a fortunate side effect.

The renewable energy sector is a key strength in China’s climate change strategy

In 1990, China’s carbon emissions stood at about 10% of the world’s total emissions. And emissions have continued to increase. In 2006, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. By 2007, China’s per capita emissions exceeded the world average.

Despite political engagement, an environmental report from 2011 showed that China was struggling to meet climate change goals. For example, only 3,6% of 471 cities successfully met grade one air quality standards.

On the plus side ...

The renewable energy sector is a key strength in China’s climate change strategy, and the country has emerged as a leader in renewable energy technologies. Many countries look to China for renewable energy solutions. Why? China’s guiding document for 2011-15, the so-called 12th Five Year Plan (FYP), was the step towards balancing policy discourse on the economy and the environment. It built on the energy intensity and renewable energy successes of the 11th FYP, and signalled the beginning of substantial domestic interest on environmental matters.

One commitment stated in the 12th FYP was to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 11,4% by 2015 and 20% by 2020. In 2010, the share was 8.3%. By 2014, renewable energy’s share was 11,2%. And as it seems, China will continue improving its energy consumption structure and efficiency.

Want to learn more about climate change targets in China? Download the full report here.