Milestones in China’s Energy and Climate Policy

Source: self illustration

As the world's largest carbon emitter, China's climate commitments in September 2020 to achieve peak carbon before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060 are of profound significance to the global response to climate change. More than a year on from China's climate pledge, the Chinese government is aligning its policies and strategic planning at all socio and economic levels to achieve the climate goal.

In October 2021, the Chinese central government issued a policy document on top-level, overarching green and low carbon transition guidance for China’s national and international development strategy, followed by the corresponding, but more concrete and 2030-oriented Action Plan. Further relevant departments and administrative units will then develop individual implementation plans for peaking carbon dioxide in energy, industry, urban and rural development, transport, agriculture, and rural areas, as well as for specific industries in accordance with the plan. Each region will also draw up its own regional action plan to achieve peaking carbon dioxide in accordance with the requirements of the overarching guidance. This series of documents will build up a "1+N" policy system (“1” stands for one guidance, “N” stands for numbers of action/implementation plan) with clear objectives, reasonable responsibility division, strong measures, and orderly coordination to achieve carbon neutrality.

Here, the GIZ Energy Transition team provides an overview of the major events in China's climate and energy policy since September 2020 as info reference for international audience.

Milestones in China’s Energy and Climate Policy

November 2021 - Action plan for carbon peaking in public institutions

On 19 November, China National Government Offices Administration, NDRC, MoF and MEE jointly issued the Implementation Plan for In-depth Green and Low Carbon Leading Action of Public Institutions to Peak Carbon Emissions, the second of the N sectoral plans of the country’s 1+N policy framework to reach carbon peaking and neutrality goals.  China has in total about 1.58 million public institutions, of which the total energy consumption in 2019 was about 180 million tons of standard coal, accounting for about 3.7% of the national total of 4.86 billion tons. It is equivalent to about 399 million tons of CO2 emission, accounting for about 3.5% of China's total carbon emissions.

The plan sets the following objectives for China’s public institutions:

  • By 2025, energy use structure and energy efficiency in public institutions shall continue to improve.
  • The annual total energy consumption will be capped at 189 million tonnes standard coal
  • Total CO2 emissions will be capped at 400 million tonnes. Energy consumption and carbon emissions per unit floor space will cut 5% and 7% respectively, compared with 2020.
  • Public institutions in some local areas should achieve carbon peaking before 2025 and public institutions nationwide shall peak carbon emissions as early as possible before 2030.

The plan puts forward five focal working areas, including the green transition of energy use, low carbon building operation, promotion on low-carbon technologies, introducing green and low carbon pilot projects and enhancing capacity building in green development. The plan specifies 20 concrete actions, including electrification of end energy use, solar PV and solar thermal projects, new energy vehicles, green buildings, energy-saving renovation of existing buildings, smart energy management in buildings, and greening of data centres.

To achieve the actions above, the plan also proposes specific targets for key areas, including:

  • Promoting solar PV and solar heating projects: By 2025, new buildings of public institutions will have 50% of their roofs installed with solar PV. By 2025, newly added area of heating or cooling using heat pumps will reach 10 million square meters
  • Controlling coal consumption: By 2025, the share of coal consumption will reduce to be-low 13%
  • Selecting 300 green and low-carbon piloting public institutions and 2,000 pilots for energy conservation oriented public institutions

Public institutions shall include carbon emission per unit of floor space as a binding indicator in the work planning and assessment system to conserve energy and resources.

“国家机关事务管理局 国家发展和改革委员会 财政部 生态环境部关于印发深入开展公共机构绿色低碳引领行动促进碳达峰实施方案的通知,” National Government Offices Administration, 19 November, 2021, at
“万亿级公共机构低碳改造市场开启,” Ugreen, 25 November 2021, at

October 2021 – China submitted the updated NDC

On 28 October, China submitted its updated NDC to UNFCCC. The updated NDC is as follows:

  • aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060;
  • lower CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by over 65% from the 2005 level
  • increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25%,
  • increase the forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level,
  • bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1200 GW by 2030.

Click here for the source information.

October 2021 – State Council Information Office releases white paper "Responding to Climate Change: China's Policies and Actions"

Following the official release of the Guidance and the Action Plan, the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China released the white paper titled "Responding to Climate Change: China's Policies and Actions" on 27 October, 2021. The Chinese government is publishing this white paper to document its progress in mitigating climate change, and to share its experience and approaches with the international community.

Click here for the full English version of the white paper "Responding to Climate Change: China's Policies and Actions".

October 2021 - [FEATURED] Launching the top level policy design: the overarching policy guidance and the action plans

On 24 October 2021, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality in Full and Faithful Implementation of the New Development Philosophy” (the Guidance), which is the guiding principle (the “1”) of the earlier announced “1+N policy system” to achieve carbon dioxide peaking and carbon neutrality goals. The Guidance can be understood as the top-level, overarching green and low carbon transition guidance for China’s national and international development strategy. It also lays the foundation for supporting measures in key industries and other areas.

October 2021 – Pre-announcement on overarching and concrete policies and action plans at COP meeting of Convention on Biological Diversity

On 12 October 2021, Chinese president Xi Jinping outlined at the Leaders’ Summit of the 15th COP Meeting of Convention on Biological Diversity that China will release implementation plans for peaking carbon dioxide emissions in key areas and sectors as well as a series of supporting measures and will put in place a “1+N” policy framework for carbon peak and carbon neutrality. China will continue to readjust its industrial structure and energy mix, vigorously develop renewable energy, and make faster progress in planning and developing large wind power and photovoltaic bases in sandy areas, rocky areas and deserts. The first phase of projects with an installed capacity of approximately 100 GW have recently started construction in a smooth fashion.

May 2021 – Establishment of leading group on carbon peaking and carbon neutrality

On 26 May 2021, the first plenary meeting of newly established leading group on carbon peak and carbon neutrality took place in Beijing. Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng stressed efforts to accomplish the country's carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals on schedule. He also highlighted targeted and operable policy measures to optimize the industrial structure, promote the adjustment of the energy structure and support research and development on green and low-carbon technologies.

December 2020 – New carbon emission reduction goal announced at Climate Ambition Summit

On 12 December 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated in his speech at the Climate Ambition Summit that by 2030, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will drop by more than 65% compared to 2005, the share of non-fossil energy in primary energy consumption will reach about 25%, forest stock will increase by 6 billion cubic metres compared to 2005, and the total installed capacity of wind and solar power will reach more than 1200 GW.

September 2020 – New ambitious 2030/2060 climate goal

In September 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping for the first time announced a concrete long-term target of peaking carbon emissions before 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 at the UN General Assembly. This is regarded as a significant step for the global fight against climate change.

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The Coordination and Responsibility

The Central Party Committtee of China and the State Council take the central and intergral lead for China's climate policy development and the pathway to achinve carbon neutrality. On central governmental level, a Leading Group for Carbon Neutral Work, headed by Vice-Premier Han Zheng was established to carry out overall planning and systematic promotion of the relevant work.The Office of the Leading Group (located at the National Development and Reform Commission) will strengthen coordination and regular scheduling, scientifically propose timetables and roadmaps for the peaking of carbon dioxide, and supervise the implementation of all targets and tasks.On provincial level, local government (provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities) have set up leading groups to strengthen the coordination of local peak carbon and carbon-neutral work. Meanwhile, the National Climate Change Expert Committee and other supporting institutions continue to play an advisory role.