Development of a Low-Carbon Indicator System for China

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Journal Article

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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 and in March 2011, China's 12th Five-Year Plan established a carbon intensity reduction goal of 17% between 2011 and 2015. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China then established a Low Carbon City policy and announced the selection of five provinces and eight cities to pilot the low carbon development work. How to determine if a city or province is "low carbon" has not been defined by the Chinese government.

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, electric power) offer a better approach for defining "low carbon" and for taking action to reduce energy-related carbon emissions.

This report presents and tests a methodology for the development of a low carbon indicator system at the provincial and city level, providing initial results for an end-use low carbon indicator system, based on data available at the provincial and municipal levels. The report begins with a discussion of macrolevel indicators that are typically used for inter-city, regional, or inter-country comparisons. It then turns to a discussion of the methodology used to develop a more robust low carbon indicator for China. The report presents the results of this indicator with examples for six selected provinces and cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shanxi, Shandong, Guangdong, and Hubei). The report concludes with a discussion of data issues and other problems encountered during the development of the end-use low carbon indicator, followed by recommendations for future improvement.


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