The motivations for China’s recent energy and climate change policies are far more complex than the stereotypical view of China as a country bent on the pursuit of economic growth at all costs would allow. Since the release of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan in 2006, China has reduced its energy intensity (energy used per unit of GDP output) by almost 20 per cent. China has also set carbon intensity targets and is experimenting with carbon pricing. In less than a decade its renewable energy industry has grown from a very low base to a position of world dominance.
Why has China implemented difficult and ambitious emissions-reducing energy reform and climate policy, when less than a decade ago the country seemed set on a path of unmitigated emissions growth? Recent research based on a survey of key Chinese government documents and Chinese academic articles concludes that three ideas in particular underpin China’s new energy and climate policy: energy security, concern over environmental impacts and the desire to gain a competitive advantage.