Philip Andrews-Speed

Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore

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On 11 March 2021, the Chinese government ratified its 14th Five Year Plan and long-term targets for 2035. Since this is the first Five Year Plan (FYP) published following China’s announcement in September 2020 that it would aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060, it was expected to be a strong indicator of China’s commitment to this pledge and a first concrete step toward it, although viewing it as a bellwether of China’s ambitions may be misguided. This comment discusses some of the key statements from the Plan regarding energy and the environment, as well as five themes that will be important to watch over the next few years.

The overarching Plan seems weak in terms of its climate ambition and heavy on self-sufficiency, but these are early days, as more details will emerge with sectoral and provincial plans in the coming months. Still, there are a number of inherent policy tensions that will plague the upcoming plan. It will be important to watch whether these are addressed (although they are unlikely to be resolved) in sectoral plans; whether or not the political framework evolves in support of a stronger climate agenda, either through stronger ministries, leading groups, or improved coordination. The development of the emissions trading scheme will also be important, although we argue that even though it is a significant step for China, its near term impact on emissions in the power sector will be limited. Finally, we argue that despite slower oil demand growth, refining additions will continue in the near term, and that even though the decarbonisation agenda may weaken gas demand in the long-term, liberalisation efforts (and potentially some coal to gas switching) will be a boon for gas demand in the near-term.

[post_title] => Key issues for China’s 14th Five Year Plan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => key-issues-for-chinas-14th-five-year-plan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=43523 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 42195 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2020-10-28 10:51:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-28 10:51:20 [post_content] => The COVID-19 pandemic has created what can be termed a critical juncture from the perspective of the low-carbon transition. Nations have the opportunity to use their economic recovery plans to accelerate this transition. As an upper-middle-income country, China might be expected to build on its recent successes and accelerate the pace of its low-carbon energy transition. Until recently, the Chinese government has been relatively successful in constraining the rise of emissions through a mix of economic, energy and technology policies. This trend appeared to be under threat in October 2019 when Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, argued that China should make better use of its domestic resources of coal, oil and natural gas to enhance national security of energy supply, presumably in response to the trade conflict. In contrast, almost one year later, in September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. These two, apparently contradictory policy announcements, bracketed the launch and delivery of the national economic recovery plans. In this context, the paper addresses the question of whether the year 2020 marks a critical juncture in China’s management of the low-carbon energy transition. In simple terms, the events of 2020 could yield one of three medium- to long-term trends: The juncture could become critical in a positive way. In this case, the pandemic, along with Xi Jinping’s announcement, would trigger an acceleration of country’s low-carbon energy transition. Conversely, a focus on economic growth, employment and security of energy and material supply might render the juncture critical in a negative way by undermining recent achievements and boosting carbon emissions. Finally, the juncture may not become critical in which case trends in the energy sector would continue as before. To address the question, this paper carries out a document analysis of the economic recovery plans and the energy policies announced in the first ten months of 2020 and reveals that the economic recovery plan has few distinctly green features. In the energy sector, these priorities favour fossil fuels and self-reliance. The paper then contrasts these policy approaches with President Xi’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 and concludes that whilst the preceding policies did not reflect a critical juncture, the President’s bold call may do so, but the challenges ahead will be formidable. [post_title] => Does 2020 mark a critical juncture in China’s low-carbon energy transition? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => does-2020-mark-a-critical-juncture-in-chinas-low-carbon-energy-transition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-17 10:02:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-17 10:02:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=42195 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 43523 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_content] =>

On 11 March 2021, the Chinese government ratified its 14th Five Year Plan and long-term targets for 2035. Since this is the first Five Year Plan (FYP) published following China’s announcement in September 2020 that it would aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060, it was expected to be a strong indicator of China’s commitment to this pledge and a first concrete step toward it, although viewing it as a bellwether of China’s ambitions may be misguided. This comment discusses some of the key statements from the Plan regarding energy and the environment, as well as five themes that will be important to watch over the next few years.

The overarching Plan seems weak in terms of its climate ambition and heavy on self-sufficiency, but these are early days, as more details will emerge with sectoral and provincial plans in the coming months. Still, there are a number of inherent policy tensions that will plague the upcoming plan. It will be important to watch whether these are addressed (although they are unlikely to be resolved) in sectoral plans; whether or not the political framework evolves in support of a stronger climate agenda, either through stronger ministries, leading groups, or improved coordination. The development of the emissions trading scheme will also be important, although we argue that even though it is a significant step for China, its near term impact on emissions in the power sector will be limited. Finally, we argue that despite slower oil demand growth, refining additions will continue in the near term, and that even though the decarbonisation agenda may weaken gas demand in the long-term, liberalisation efforts (and potentially some coal to gas switching) will be a boon for gas demand in the near-term.

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Latest Publications by Philip Andrews-Speed