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Shock News–China 5-Year Plan Will Increase Emissions

March 6, 2021

By Paul Homewood



It never ceases to amaze me how naive the Guardian is!

They now seem astonished that China’s new 5- Year Plan is going to mean higher emissions:



China has set out an economic blueprint for the next five years that could lead to a strong rise in greenhouse gas emissions if further action is not taken to meet the country’s long-term goals.

The 14th five-year plan, published in Beijing on Friday, gave few details on how the world’s biggest emitter would meet its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2060, set out by President Xi Jinping last year, and of ensuring that carbon dioxide output peaks before 2030.

China will reduce its “emissions intensity” – the amount of CO2 produced per unit of GDP – by 18% over the period 2021 to 2025, but this target is in line with previous trends, and could lead to emissions continuing to increase by 1% a year or more. Non-fossil fuel energy is targeted to make up 20% of China’s energy mix, leaving plenty of room for further expansion of the country’s coal industry.

Swithin Lui, of the Climate Action Tracker and NewClimate Institute, said: “[This is] underwhelming and shows little sign of a concerted switch away from a future coal lock-in. There is little sign of the change needed [to meet net zero].”

Zhang Shuwei, chief economist at Draworld Environment Research Centre, said: “As the first five-year plan after China committed to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, the 14th five-year plan was expected to demonstrate strong climate ambition. However, the draft plan presented does not seem to meet the expectations. The international community expected China’s climate policy to ‘jump’, but in reality it is still crawling.”

Unusually, this five-year plan did not set out GDP targets for the whole five-year period, but allowed for annual targets, with the first for this year a target of 6% growth. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said that coupled with the emissions intensity target, this could allow the growth rate of China’s emissions to speed up even further, rather than slow down, as is needed.



The key points are:

  • No cap on energy consumption
  • Carbon intensity to be cut by 18% by 2025
  • Energy intensity to be cut by 13.5%
  • No ban on new coal power stations

(More detail here)

Indeed, according to Reuters, the report states China will continue to promote “the clean and efficient use of coal”.

The GDP target this year is an increase of 6%. No doubt the uncertainty around COVID has made China reluctant to commit to specific GDP targets through to 2025, as would normally be the case.

However, assuming an annual increase of 5% after this year, we would be looking at 5-year growth of 29%.

Working back from this, reducing carbon intensity per GDP by 18% would actually mean a rise in actual emissions of 6%. Similarly, energy consumption would rise by 12%.

Effectively this means that half of the extra energy consumption will come from fossil fuels, and half from low carbon.


Last year, thermal generation in China rose by 2.5%. However, this figure was artificially lowered because of COVID, which reduced power demand. With renewables and nuclear getting priority access to the grid, this lower demand primarily impinged on thermal.

A better guide to what is really happening, however, is the Q4 stats, by when the Chinese economy appears to have been getting back to normal.

This shows that thermal generation rose by 8%, or 99 TWh. Total power output increased by 163 TWh (excl solar, which is not published quarterly), with most of the rest (44 TWh) being hydro.

In other words, thermal is still accounting for two thirds of the increase in generation.



Carbon and energy intensity are in any event meaningless concepts, as maturing economies tend to expand into low energy sectors, such as services. Falling intensity does not mean that energy usage is declining.

As has been pointed out, the 18% target cut for carbon intensity is the same as the last five year plan, during which emissions have rocketed in China.

The reality is that renewable energy cannot supply all of the extra demand for energy, never mind start to replace fossil fuels.

  1. Penda100 permalink
    March 6, 2021 5:14 pm

    China is not stupid* and will not wreck its economy to appease Guardian readers or the Climate Gods aka computer models that continually fail in the real world.
    * unlike some western governments

  2. Cheshire Red permalink
    March 6, 2021 5:16 pm

    All this under the planet-saving ‘Paris Climate Accord’. Good job Sleepy Joe rushed the US back into it. Imagine what these figures would’ve been if he hadn’t!

  3. John Palmer permalink
    March 6, 2021 5:25 pm

    You’re such a very charitable chap, Paul. They’re not naive, but mendacious peddlers of climate alarmism and anti-capitalist propaganda.
    Naive, my a**e!

  4. tom0mason permalink
    March 6, 2021 5:57 pm

    Make no mistake the Chinese aim is to become the manufacturing centre of the world.
    In this the Chinese want to make all nations dependent on their manufactured good. They will do what ever it takes to be successful in this endeavor — acquire monopolies in resources and their management, buy (in full or part) non-Chinese companies to increase market share, install hardware spyware systems in electronic technology systems, devices, and components, bribe foreign politician to gain other markets, etc.
    The West is utterly stupid in allowing this to proceed while the Chinese government internally allows and condones the use of slave labour, social spying, internal isolation of individuals who criticize the regime, organ harvesting of prisoners, and is complicit in polluting both their own land and that of other nations (e.g. Congo, etc.).

    • John Peter permalink
      March 7, 2021 8:18 am

      Spot on.

  5. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 6, 2021 5:57 pm

    No cap on energy consumption
    Carbon intensity to be cut by 18% by 2025
    Energy intensity to be cut by 13.5%
    No ban on new coal power stations

    Orders Boris Johnson – just before Carrie leaves him and GP heads explode.
    Then I woke up. Sad to say.

  6. Mack permalink
    March 6, 2021 6:00 pm

    I’m shocked. Not at what China is doing but at the Guardianistas, who hailed the Paris accord as a victory for the planet, but failed to actually read it. The Chinese are doing exactly what they said they were going to do in the agreement.

  7. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 6, 2021 6:44 pm

    Matt McGrath had high hopes.

  8. Brian Richards permalink
    March 6, 2021 7:37 pm

    Just reading an excellent book: ‘The Rare Metals War’ which shows what China is up to.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 6, 2021 9:16 pm

      One way to look at it (rare-earths-wise) is to see that the First-World, who could not afford the environmental constraints of mining and refining rare earths, was more than happy to allow Third-World countries to do the (contaminated) heavy lift. Then, the West saw the bill for their criminal negligence & third-party delegation of environmental destruction – and China is demanding payment. The USA is already paying.

      We have a choice: dance to China’s tune, or get rid of the CCA and get our act together on meeting the coming science-ignor-a-thon – where the West is risking being colonised – and get our (children’s lives back.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      March 7, 2021 7:54 am

      The West is rushing with open eyes into a double trap:

      1. It’s determined to ruin its economy by moving to a ludicrously expensive ‘net zero’ future; a future that’s of no serious interest to the rest of the world – the source of 75% of global CO2 emissions, making the the West’s plans wholly unworkable in any case.

      That’s bad enough. But:

      2. The components required for that ‘net zero’ future (as well as modern weapon systems) depend entirely on a resource (rare earths) of which the People’s Republic of China has a controlling monopoly.

      For all his faults, Trump was aware of this trap. Now Biden is leading us back into it.

  9. Alan Haile permalink
    March 6, 2021 9:06 pm

    I find it amusing that The Guardian believes that the Chinese give a sh*t about climate change. I just wish that our Government were the same.

  10. Gary Kerkin permalink
    March 6, 2021 9:24 pm

    Is it possible China has a greater game in mind? By signing the Paris Agreement it portrays concern while building the energy supply resources needed to lead the world
    while the rest of the developed nations fall into doldrums slavishly trying to meet their Paris Agreement obligations?

  11. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 6, 2021 11:34 pm

    The Guardian knows full well it can print any dross it likes in its “Environment” section simply because it is read in the main by the scientifically illiterate. For example under the “Energy” articles I have lost count of the number of posters who seem to think you can derive hydrogen from water by a process known as “Hydrolysis”. Invariably the posters who trot out such drivel also claim great “scientific” knowledge so are quite clearly complete charlatans.
    Here is a classic example
    If you have a readership as pig ignorant as this you can print whatever you like.
    “World War 2 bomber found on the Moon” from the Sunday Sport had more credibility than most Guardian fare.

  12. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    March 7, 2021 4:44 am

    Fiona Harvey is dumb as a fence post.

  13. Robin Guenier permalink
    March 7, 2021 8:26 am

    Re ‘carbon intensity’ this graph shows how ’emissions per 1000 dollar GDP’ has declined over the years (while emissions themselves have rocketed):

  14. Gamecock permalink
    March 7, 2021 1:16 pm

    ‘China’s five-year plan could push emissions higher unless action is taken’

    What action do you recommend, Guardian? We can’t nuke ’em. Well, we shouldn’t.

    Wait . . . I know what they are thinking: “The West should reduce it’s emissions to counteract China’s increased emissions.”

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