China's climate change combat

Advisor, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, Asian Development Bank

China was among the near-200 countries to adopt the Paris Climate Change Agreement (Paris Agreement) at an historic UN conference in Paris, France on 12 December 2015. As an emerging economy and one of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases, how China implements the Paris Agreement will be important. We asked Dr Xuedu Lu of the Asian Development Bank for his views.

OECD Yearbook: What has China agreed to implement as part of its contribution to the Paris Agreement?

Xuedu Lu: There’s no doubt that China made important contributions to the Paris Agreement, and this fact was acknowledged by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and President François Hollande of France, which hosted the event. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) submitted to the UNFCCC* as part of the Paris Agreement, China shows its determination to be fully involved in global efforts to protect the climate.

It has set the following targets for 2030: to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions, if possible, earlier than 2030; to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level; to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20%; and to increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic metres compared with the 2005 level.

China also aims to accelerate the transformation of energy production and consumption, optimise its energy mix, improve energy efficiency and increase its forest carbon sinks to help in mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Have any actions already been taken or are there any in the pipeline?

Clearly, China must now make the climate agreement official. A senior state leader of the Chinese government, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who oversees climate change affairs, announced at a ceremony to sign the Paris Agreement in New York on 22 April 2016 that China would approve the Paris Agreement before the G20 Summit 2016 on 4-5 September 2016 in Hangzhou.

Meanwhile, China published the “China Energy Outlook 2030” report on 1 March 2016, which indicates that its GHG emissions may reach peak earlier than 2030 if the share of low-carbon energy is enhanced. New attention is being given to this. Also, under its 13th National Economic and Social Development Planning (2016-2020) China has included a chapter on “Actively Addressing Climate Change” which calls for a priority to be placed on actions to control GHG emissions in the energy and industrial sectors; for pilot low-carbon cities to be launched to help ensure early peaking; and for near-zero-emission engineering projects to be demonstrated. The chapter also calls for the establishment of a nationwide emission trading scheme, and for measures related to emission accounting and emission standards to be enforced. There are currently 42 Pilot Low-Carbon Cities in China, and the government plans to expand that number to 100 by the end of 2016. All of them are being asked to set their targets for peaking emissions earlier than 2030.

Moreover, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Development issued the “Adaptation Action Plan of Cities” on 17 February 2016, to guide policies and actions for enhancing the resilience of cities to climate change.

Are you optimistic that the targets can be met and what would you advise?

Based on my own experience of working in government in China, I am quite optimistic that every effort will be made to achieve the targets as submitted. Everyone knows that it is in the national interest to halt climate change. This is clear in official documents and in statements by President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. In China, once top officials focus on something, the institutions follow. So, I am confident that China will act.

However, clearly, China still faces huge challenges to achieve the targets, in particular ensuring that emissions peak by 2030. Boosting the share of non- and low-carbon energy will be difficult enough, given the limited availability of such resources while meeting the needs of society as a whole. And let’s not forget the burgeoning areas in central and western China, where demand will likely rise for energy-intensive products like steel and iron, cement and glass in the years ahead. Collecting and monitoring accurate data on GHG emissions will be challenging too.

For China to achieve its targets, it must overcome such challenges. This is why international co-operation, including multilateral support and access to global knowledge bases, is so important. When it comes to climate, no country can do it alone.

*UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:


More on China’s INDC

China’s 13th National Economic and Social Development Planning (2016-2020)

China’s Adaptation Action Plan of Cities

More on the “China Energy Outlook 2030”

©OECD Yearbook 2016

International collaboration at the OECD Forum 2016

Other OECD Forum 2016 issues


OECD work on environment

OECD work on green growth and sustainable development

OECD Yearbook 2016

Economic data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa.
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .

Most Popular Articles


What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016