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China's highly anticipated 5-year plan is hazy on climate

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.


  • It also aims to have its share of energy from non-fossil fuels at 20% by 2025.

Yes, but: Greenpeace's Li Shuo, who tracks Chinese policy carefully, called the plan an "indecisive signal" that simply incorporates China's existing intentions.

  • "These targets represent the intention of the Chinese government to implement the climate announcement made by President Xi Jinping at the Climate Ambition Summit last December. But they do not go further than that," he said in a brief analysis.
  • "The plan also defers key questions of how China intends to accelerate its decarbonization into the future," Li wrote.
  • "We were hoping for more answers on climate issues, but what we got are more questions," he told the Financial Times.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest carbon emitter.

  • The country pledged in September to have its emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, but concrete steps toward those goals remain hazy at best.
  • And, as AP notes, the plan "did not mention any ban on new coal projects, which experts say would be a significant step."

What we're watching: The relative absence of new info raises the stakes of Biden administration moves to secure stronger efforts in forthcoming diplomacy — including the climate summit the White House is convening next month.

  • Li, meanwhile, said he's watching for more detailed documents to follow, such as "sectoral" 5-year plans and a climate-specific plan.

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