China's Low Carbon Energy Policy: National Dilemmas and Global Perspectives

  • Ole Odgaard
Keywords: China, Coal, Renewable energy, Energy governance


China has embarked on a more sustainable path to becoming an industrialized and developed nation. The main drivers are the insecurity of fossil energy supply, widespread pollution, and acute water shortage caused by exploitation of coal in northern China. China is now a leading nation regarding deployment of green energy technologies. But at the same time coal-based power plants seem to be commissioned more extensively than prescribed in the Five-Year Plans. Many local governments favour short term economic growth and employment creation and resent more costly green policies, despite pressure from the central government. In the coming decades, China will be the main contributor to the growing global energy consumption of especially oil, coal and nuclear power; it will also be the main contributor to global growth in CO2 emissions. However, recent policy initiatives launched by the central government aim to bypass the local opposition to greener development by introducing more economic incentives to reduce fossil fuel demand. The outcome of these attempts to weaken federalist governance will be imperative for a more sustainable development of China's energy sector.