By Danuta Slusarska, Project Executive at Friends of Europe

China’s rapidly growing economy, combined with its high-speed industrialisation and urbanisation over the past three decades has lifted the country out of poverty and into the ranks of the world’s largest economies. Yet, its growing thirst for energy driven by economic development along with the country’s heavy reliance on coal have led to hazardous effects of climate change, deterioration of critical natural resources such as land and water and air pollution. China, like many other emerging economies urgently needs to find sustainable solutions to address its energy and climate challenges, while simultaneously maintaining its economic growth and rising living standards.

Confronted with these concerns and under pressure from the international community, China has been implementing over the last decade a series of ambitious policies to support green growth and shift away from coal. Through this energy transition, China hopes to improve its energy security, reduce its energy consumption, enhance its economic competitiveness, while simultaneously curbing CO2 emissions. The ongoing “revolution in energy production and consumption” was headlined by President Hu Jintao during the 18th Party Congress in 2012 announcing the cornerstones of China’s new energy policy: “we should impose a ceiling on total energy consumption, save energy and reduce its consumption, (…) support the development of energy-efficient and low-carbon industries, new energy sources and renewable energy sources and ensure China’s energy security”.

The efforts undertaken by the Chinese government have brought spectacular results: the country has emerged as the world’s leader in renewable energy and last year saw the slowest growth in CO2 emissions in a decade (3.8%), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). At the same time, China’s average annual GDP growth continued to exceed 8% per year. What lessons can we learn from China’s on-going energy transformation?

This background briefing seeks to spotlight the unfolding Chinese green revolution by examining in-depth the main pillars of the new energy strategy, the progress accomplished by China in low-carbon sectors and the potential challenges facing the Chinese government on its path towards green growth.

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