China will enforce provincial carbon peaking goals through its tough system of environmental disciplinary inspections, according to LI Gao, DG of the Department of Climate Change at MEE, at a news conference on 28 October. This will make it likely that provincial leaders will take them very seriously, as a failure to meet the targets could have consequences for their careers.
Although China committed to peaking its carbon emissions before 2030, the country’s total carbon emissions continue to rise, and international observers have expressed concern about the approval of a series of new coal-fired power plants in the first half of 2020. Provincial government leaders play a key role in approving such developments. Therefore, the inclusion of carbon emissions to their scorecard could make a big difference in the amount of new coal developments around China.
In 2016, China started to conduct environmental disciplinary inspections, where teams of environmental officials accompany anti-corruption inspectors to check on the environmental performance of local officials such as governors, mayors, and leaders of state-owned enterprises. The system has proven extremely effective at curbing air pollution in the past years. In 2018, 12000 officials were punished following such inspections. Previously, the environmental disciplinary inspections looked at issues like air, water and soil pollution, and major incidents, but it didn’t cover carbon emissions.
In the period of 2021 – 2030, provinces will need to peak their carbon emissions, and each will be assigned certain targets. Although further details are yet to be released, the announcement by DG Li Gao is likely to be noticed by provincial officials, and could cause them to reconsider the approval of new carbon intensive projects.
CCICED recommended incorporating climate indicators into the environmental disciplinary inspections program, in the Policy Recommendations to the State Council of 2019 and 2020.
The views expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and not necessarily those of CCICED.