China anticipates key elements of the 13th Five Year Plan

Chinese government gathered last week (Oct. 26-29) for the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee. The Plenary had to discuss and approve the full text proposal of the 13th Five Year Plan, the first Plan under the leadership of President Xi Jamping.

Xinhua newsagency reported a party communiquè released on Thursday (Oct. 29) that summarizes the main points of the future Plan. The framework is constituted by two main goals: the adjustment of the economy to a growth target between 6.5 and 7 percent (which President Xi referred to as “New Normal” in 2014) and meeting China’s first Centenary Goal: double 2010 GDP and the per capita income of both urban and rural residents by 2020.

The full details of China’s new Five Year Plan will emerge in March 2016, when it is set to be formally adopted during the National People’s Congress.

To meet these goals, the document endorsed five key points: “innovation, coordination, the environment, opening up and sharing”.

As emerges from the communiquè, a key priority for the CPC will be to ensure that such vision will be met through an efficient and equitable development. In practice, this will be met by modernization the agricultural sector and raising the people’s quality of life, as the Plan targets to bring all rural people out of poverty by 2020.

China faces two other challenges strictly linked to its economic transformation: lowering its carbon intensity and improving environmental protection. According to Xinhua, concepts as “green development” and “sustainable development” were mentioned in the document, and the party decided to promote a “low-carbon energy system”.

In this regard the main point of the Plan consists in developing a national cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions, coherently with President Xi Jinping’s announcement made last September. Allocation systems for power and water use were also mentioned. Further pledges regarded environmental protections measures, as the creation of a system to supervise these efforts at the provincial and local level.

According to analyses by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), further measures for a clean energy transition should address the country’s coal reliance. As the IEEFA reports, government’s newly published data show that overall coal use in China decreased by 5.7 percent this year and the electricity market is gradually shifting away from coal-fired generation. Yet, China’s new thermal capacity addition in 2014 (47 gigawatts) was mostly coal-fired, and construction of new coal plants has not been halted.

When the plan will be officially adopted in March, it will be clear whether a cap on coal use or a ban on new coal-fired power plants will be part of Chinese strategy for the next five years. Such provisions were not included from the revision of the Air Pollution Law adopted earlier this year. Some local NGOs highlight the potential of such policies, such as the Chinese division of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that in 2013 launched the China Coal Consumption Cap Project.

Regulations and policy strategies on these matters are extremely relevant on the eve of COP21, since China’s INDC commitments include to reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 20 percent by 2030.

Further step towards the 2015 Paris Conference was the release on Monday (Nov. 2) of a Joint Presidential Statement beteween China and France. In the document, Xi Jamping and President Hollande affirmed, among other things, that the Paris agreement should include the provision to carry out comprehensive monitoring and revision processes of the INDCs every five years.

The enhancement of adaptation and mitigation actions over time will be a crucial element to be agreed upon next month.


(Image: The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Photo credit: Wikipedia).