Today, the Chinese Government presented the draft 14th Five Year Plan in a speech at the annual session of the National People’s Congress. Setting major social and economic development objectives for the next five years, the 14th Five-Year Plan of China identifies a range of topline targets concerning the country’s economic growth, welfare system, energy consumption and environmental protection.

The 14th Five-Year Plan aims to lower energy intensity and carbon intensity by 13.5% and 18% respectively in 2021-2025, and increase non-fossil energy to around 20% in the energy mix. The 18% carbon intensity target maintains the same rate of reduction as in the last five year plan, which was already considered moderate. On the other hand, five year targets are normally set as baselines, so the likely overachievement of these targets preserves the possibility of more action. Most objectives related to climate and environment in the 13th FYP have been realized ahead of schedule.

Lower energy intensity by 13.5%

Lower carbon intensity by 18%

Increase non-fossil energy’s share in the energy mix from 15.8% in 2020 to about 20% in 2025

Increase the forest coverage to 24.1%

What about the GDP target?

The 14th FYP will not set an explicit five-year target on GDP growth, instead, the target will be decided on a yearly basis. The absence of a five-year GDP target makes China’s emissions growth over the period even more uncertain. Analysis done by Draworld Environment Research Center shows that if the actual annual GDP growth is above 3.9% in the 14th FYP period, China’s carbon emissions will continue to increase.

What about the share of renewable energy resources?

In December 2020 at the virtual Climate Ambition Summit, President Xi committed to increase the share of non-fossil fuels – including renewables – in the energy mix to around 25% by 2030. Reflected in the 14th FYP, the plan aims to increase non-fossil energy’s share to about 20% in 2025. In 2020, the actual share was about 16%.

How could China reach carbon neutrality?

China accounts for 26% of global emissions. The strategy on economic and energy transition outlined in the 14th FYP will largely shape China’s emissions trajectory in the next 5 years and beyond.

Since China’s climate pledge in September, climate and energy experts in China have been urging tougher emissions reductions targets in order for China to fulfill its commitment. Top policy experts believe that for China to stay in the course of carbon peaking before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060, assuming an annual GDP growth rate of 5.3% in the next 5 years China would need to reduce its energy intensity by 14%, and the Co2 intensity by 19.4%. Though the figures unveiled are close to that analysis, the absence of the economic growth goal in the five-year term has made gauging the ambition level, and the actual emissions reduction effect, difficult.

Many have also called for China to set up overall emissions caps – in particular a carbon emissions cap – alongside existing efficiency targets in the 14th FYP.