President Xi stated in his speech at the opening segment of COP15 in Kunming in October last year that China would “put in place a ‘1+N’ policy framework for carbon peaking and carbon neutrality”. Since then, a series of climate-related policy documents have been issued, some containing many explicit quantitative targets. The speed at which these policies have been developed is very impressive.
However, it has been a bit tricky to untangle exactly how this ‘1+N’ framework fits together, and often it hasn’t been immediately clear whether new documents are part of the framework or not. This has been difficult even for climate policy observers in China.
In this article we attempt to clarify the framework, and provide an update of the key documents and targets which have been issued so far. • An overview table of numerical targets has been prepared under the EU – China Environment Project (a project funded by the EU), of which a summary has been provided at the bottom of the article.
The 1+N framework
The idea of a ‘1+N’ climate policy framework was first disclosed a year ago, in a March 2021 meeting of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), followed by a formal announcement by the NDRC in a briefing conference to the media home and abroad.
After President Xi confirmed the imminent introduction of the ‘1+N’ framework in his speech at Kunming COP 15 in October, two documents were released, marking its formal launch. They are the Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality in Full and Faithful Implementation of the New Development Philosophy (“Overarching Guidance”) issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, and the Action Plan for Carbon Peaking Before 2030 issued by the State Council (“2030 Peaking Plan”). According to an interview with an NDRC official, the Overarching Guidance is the ‘1’, while ‘N’ are various policies, starting with 2030 Peaking Plan.
Carbon peaking plans for various fields and industries, as well as local carbon peaking plans, are also a part of the broader framework. In July 2021, China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua delivered a speech in which he took a broad view on the scope, which was confirmed in an NDRC interview. Relevant authorities will design sectoral plans based on the 2030 Peaking Plan, and localities shall form their own carbon peaking plans accordingly.
According to NDRC, the ‘N’ policies will include implementation plans for carbon peaking in the fields of energy, industry, transportation, urban and rural construction and others, as well as supporting measures on science and technology, carbon sinks, statistical accounting, inspection and assessment, and safeguard policies on fiscal, financing, and pricing methods.
Mr. Xie Zhenhua in his speech divided the framework into 10 key areas, including on:
- energy structure,
- industrial transition,
- energy saving and low carbon buildings,
- green and low carbon transportation,
- circular economy,
- technology innovation,
- green finance,
- supporting economic measures and reforms,
- carbon market and carbon pricing,
- nature-based solutions.
So, what counts as a ‘1+N’ policy exactly?
Mr. Xie’s classification provides a clear path for the ‘1+N’ framework to take shape. However, over the past few months, polices were issued in a somewhat scattered manner, with national level and localities issuing new documents almost every week, but without a clear statement on what counts as a ‘1+N’ policy. Few people could tell you what are the existing ones released so far. Does any carbon related policy automatically fall under the scope, such as all of the energy policies released last year? How do they relate to the sectoral 14th five-year plans – are they part of the system as well? What is the role of NDRC in coordinating this process?
We believe that the policy-making power has been delegated to the NDRC, so that NDRC has the final say over what counts as a ‘1+N’ policy. In an Europe-China Partnership Dialogue event held in July 2021, NDRC said that it was formulating the top design together with relevant authorities, mandated by the high-level leadership group for carbon peak and carbon neutrality, and it will quickly prepare the implementation plans for different fields and industries. If so, then documents issued by other departments without the participation of the NDRC (or the State Council, as its higher authority, or the CPC Central Committee, as the leadership) can’t be a formal part of the national ‘1+N’ system. That would also be the case for provincial and city level action plans.
Following this standard, namely, NDRC, State Council or Central Committee as one of the issuing institutions, and mentioning the two guiding documents as its basis, we can identify a number of documents that would count as ‘1+N’, in addition to the two released last October:
- The Notice on Leading Green and Low-carbon Actions by Public Institutions, State Organ Affairs Administration, NDRC, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Ecology and Environment;
- The Implementation Plan on Promoting the Green and High-Quality Development of New Infrastructures such as Data Centers and 5G, NDRC and three other administrations;
- Implementation Plan for Promoting Green Consumption, NDRC and six other administrations;
- The Opinion on Green Energy and Low-Carbon Transformations, NDRC and the National Energy Administration.
What about other climate-related policies?
There are many other important policies which do not fulfill the above criteria but are closely related. Taking a broader scope, those may also count as part of the ‘1+N’ framework. But perhaps they were issued before the framework, there was no reference to the framework, or it’s unclear whether the leading authorities have played a role in approving the plans. For example:
- The Guiding Opinions on Accelerating the Establishment and Improvement of a Green, Low-Carbon and Circular Developing Economic System, State Council in February 2021;
- The Opinions on Tightening Energy Efficiency Constraints and Promoting Energy Conservation and Carbon Reduction in Key Areas, issued before the Overarching Guidance in October 2021, by NDRC and four administrations. This document contains appendices with detailed action plans for the metallurgy and construction industries, as well as the petrochemical and chemical industries. Although carbon peaking is mentioned, it is focused on preventing the blind development of high energy consuming and high emitting projects.
- The Opinions on Promoting the Green Development of Urban and Rural Construction, jointly issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, which mention carbon peaking and neutrality multiple times as a goal. It was also issued before the Overarching Guidance.
- The Guiding Opinions on Promoting the High-quality Development of Central Enterprises towards Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutrality, issued by the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council in November 2021.
Apart from those documents, various sector-specific 14th five year plans were issued last year, including on industry, transportation, energy etc, not to mention provincial and city level plans. It is unclear whether those are part of the ‘1+N’ framework as well. Another issue is that amongst those documents, we observe that they contain fewer new targets, especially numerical ones.
It is very encouraging to see so much attention being devoted to developing carbon peaking plans in China. This process itself is certain to lead to an increased level of understanding around the climate transition.
However, it would be unfortunate if this proliferation of policy documents ends up being poorly implemented as a result of a lack of clarity, specificity, or confusion over the relation between them. To facilitate the implementation of these policies, it could be helpful if the Chinese government would issue some easily understood communications, perhaps including tools such as infographics. This would help stakeholders across China, including all sectors and geographies, get a much better grip on the whole ‘1+N’ framework and how it fits together, and allow all of them to play their role in advancing a smooth climate transition which ensures on energy, food and livelihoods.
The progress in the rollout of the 1+N framework to date is very impressive, and we expect many more ‘N’ documents to emerge in the months and years ahead.
Appendix: Summary Table of China’s ‘1+N’ Climate Policy Framework, prepared by the EU – China Environment Project (a project funded by the EU)
Sector / Title
Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality in Implementation of the New Development Philosophy
|Energy consumption per unit of GDP will be lowered by 13.5% compared to 2020.||2025|
|CO2 emissions per unit of GDP will be lowered by 18% compared to 2020.||2025|
|Share of non-fossil fuel in energy consumption will reach 20%.||2025|
|Forest coverage will reach 24.1%||2025|
|Forest stock volume will reach 18 billion cubic meters.||2025|
|CO2 emissions per unit of GDP will drop by more than 65% compared to 2005.||2030|
|Carbon intensity will drop over 65% compared to 2005.||2030|
|Share of non-fossil fuel in energy consumption will reach 25%.||2030|
|Total installed capacity of wind power and solar power reaching over 1200 gigawatts.||2030|
|Forest coverage will reach 25%.||2030|
|Forest stock volume will reach 19 billion cubic meters.||2030|
|Carbon peak and decrease steadily.||2030|
|Share of non-fossil fuel in energy consumption will reach over 80%.||2060|
Peaking Plan Before 2030
Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030
|No less than 50% of electricity transmitted via newly constructed lines is generated from renewable resources.||2030 (?)|
|Approximately 40 gigawatts of additional hydro power capacity will be installed during both the 14th and 15th Five-Year Plan periods, respectively.||2025, 2030|
|Installed capacity of new types of energy storage will reach 30 gigawatts or more.||2025|
|Installed pumped-storage hydro power capacity will reach approximately 120 gigawatts.||2030|
|Provincial-level electrical grids will be equipped with peak load response capacity of 5% or more.||2030|
|All newly constructed buildings in urban areas will meet green building standards.||2025|
|Renewable resources will account for 8% of the alternative to conventional energy used in buildings||2025|
|Reach 50% photovoltaic coverage on the roofs of newly constructed public buildings and factories.||2025|
|By 2030, the share of incremental vehicles fueled by new and clean energy will reach around 40%||2030|
|Carbon emission intensity of commercial vehicles measured on the basis of converted turnover will be cut by about 9.5% compared with 2020.||2030|
|Comprehensive energy consumption of the national railways per unit of converted turnover will be cut by 10% compared with 2020.||2030|
|Reach a peak in petroleum consumption for land transportation.||2030|
|During the 14th Five-year Plan period, the volume of rail-ship container transportation will increase above 15% annually.||2025|
|No less than 70% of travel will be conducted through environmentally friendly means in cities with permanent populations of one million or more.||2030|
|All ground vehicles and equipment at civil airports will be powered by electricity.||2030|
|All key industrial parks at the provincial level or above will be upgraded to support circular operations.||2030|
|By 2025, the amount of bulk solid waste recycled annually will reach around 4 billion metric tons, rising to about 4.5 billion by 2030.||2025, 2030|
|By 2025, the total amount of nine major reusable resources including steel scrap, copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, waste paper, plastic, rubber, and glass recycled will top 450 million metric tons, reaching 510 million by 2030.||2025, 2030|
|A basic sorting system for urban household waste will be established, with the reclamation rate up to about 60%.||2025|
|The sorting system for urban household waste will cover all cities, and the reclamation rate will rise to 65%.||2030|
|Select 100 pilot cities and industrial parks for carbon peak trials.
Implementation Plan on Leading Green and Low-carbon Actions by Public Institutions to Promote Carbon Peaking
|Control total energy consumption within 189 million tons of standard coal per year.||2025|
|Control CO2 emissions within 400 million tons.||2025|
|Reduce energy consumption per unit building area by 5% and carbon emissions by 7% compared with 2020.||2025|
|For regions where conditions permit, peak carbon emissions of public institutions by 2025.||2025|
|Total carbon emissions of public institutions across the country will peak asap by 2030.||2030|
|New buildings of public institutions will have 50% of their roofs installed with solar PVs.||2025|
|Share of coal consumption will reduce to below 13%.||2025|
|Full coverage of cleaning heating in public institutions in cities above county level in northern China.||2025|
|Newly added area of heating or cooling using heat bumps will reach 10 million sqm.||2025|
|Newly built public institution building must meet green building one-star or above standards, encourage large public institutions to achieve two-star and above.||2030 (?)|
|Fully use natural lighting, choose smart and efficient lights, and achieve 100% utilization of efficient lighting sources.||2030 (?)|
|Newly built large or ultra-large data centers should all meet the requirements for green data centers, achieving green and low carbon grade of 4A or above and with power usage effectiveness (PUE) reaching below 1.3.||2030 (?)|
|Th greening rate of office compounds of the Central government agencies should be no less than 45%.||2025|
|More than 3,000 contract energy management projects will be implemented.||2025|
|Over 80% of government institutions in counties and above should meet the requirements of resources conservation institutions.||2025|
|Build 2000 model resource conservation public institutions, select 200 public institution energy efficiency front-runners and create 300 model green and low carbon public institutions.
Implementing Carbon Peaking and Carbon Neutrality Targets and Promoting the Green and High-quality Development of New Infrastructure such as Data Centers and 5G
|The power utilization efficiency of newly built large and super large data centers shall be below 1.3, while the national hub nodes to be below 1.25, and the green and low-carbon grade reached above 4A.||2025|
|Utilization rate of the national data center in western parts will rise from 30% to more than 50%; the supply and demand of computing power in the east and west will be more balanced.||2025|
|Energy efficiency of 5G base stations to increase more than 20%.||2025|
|The power utilization efficiency of newly built large and super large data centers shall be below 1.3; carry out low-carbon transformation for data centers with power utilization efficiency exceeding 1.5.||2030 (?)|
|For regions whose data centers’ operation rate (more than 1 year after completion and operation) below 50%, no support for new large and super large data center will be given.||2030 (?)|
|Register data centers (including built and under construction) with a scale of more than 100 standard racks (2.5KW) to form a list of data center scale, shelf rate, and energy consumption.||2030 (?)|
|Incorporate all data centers with annual comprehensive energy consumption exceeding 10,000 tons of standard coal into the management of key energy-consuming units.
Implementation Plan for Promoting Green Consumption 《促进绿色消费实施方案》
|(Non-numerical) By 2025, the concept of green consumption will be deeply rooted in people’s mind, extravagance and waste will be effectively curbed, the market share of green and low-carbon products will increase significantly, major achievements will be made in the green transformation of consumption in key areas, green consumption patterns will be widely implemented, and a green, low-carbon and circular consumption system initially formed.||2025|
|(Non-numerical) By 2030, green consumption patterns will become the conscious choice of the public, green and low-carbon products will become mainstream, a green and low-carbon consumption model in key areas will be basically formed, and a sound green consumption system, policy system, and institutional mechanisms will be formed.||2030|
Opinions on Improving the Institutional Mechanism and Policy Measures for Energy Green and Low-Carbon Transformation
|(Non-numerical) During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, an institutional framework for promoting green and low-carbon development of energy will be basically established. A relatively complete system of policy, standard, market and regulation will be formed. Establish a green and low-carbon energy transition mechanism led by the “dual control” of energy consumption and target-setting for non-fossil energy.||2025|
|(Non-numerical) By 2030, a complete policy system for green and low-carbon energy development is basically established. Non-fossil energy not only can meet the basic incremental energy demand but also replaces the fossil energy stock on a large scale. The ability to guarantee energy safety will be comprehensively enhanced.||2030|