Key issues for China’s 14th Five Year Plan

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.

By: Michal Meidan , Philip Andrews-Speed , Yan Qin