In 2009, China committed to reducing its carbon dioxide intensity (CO2/unit of gross domestic product, GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. In March 2011, China's 12th Five-Year Plan established a carbon intensity reduction goal of 17% between 2011 and 2015. China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) then announced the selection of five provinces and eight cities to pilot low carbon development work. Macro-level indicators of low carbon development, such as energy use or CO2 emissions per unit of GDP or per capita may be too aggregated to be meaningful measurements of whether a city or province is truly "low carbon". Instead, indicators based on energy end-use sectors (industry, residential, commercial, transport) offer a better approach for defining "low carbon" and for taking action to reduce energy-related carbon emissions.
This paper presents and tests a methodology for the development of an end-use sector-based low carbon indicator system at the city level, providing initial results for an end-use low carbon indicator system based on data available at the municipal levels. The paper consists of a discussion of macro-level indicators that are typically used for inter-city, regional, or inter-country comparisons; the methodology used to develop a more robust low carbon indicator system for China; and the results of this indicator system. The research concludes with a discussion of issues encountered during the development of the end-use sector-based low-carbon indicator, followed by recommendations for future improvement.