IGSD

Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Briefing: China Guides Further Action on Pollution and Climate Change, Strengthening Precedent for Ambition in Cutting Non-CO2 Climate Pollutants


November 2, 2021

On 2 November 2021, The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council issued an important document entitled Opinions on Strengthening the Battle for Pollution Prevention and Control (“Opinions”).

Why this is important: The Opinions are another in a growing list of policy documents that China’s national policy authorities have issued. Documents such as this guide what experts on China’s negotiating team have noted as a “change to our entire system” necessary to steer China’s massive economy toward peaking of carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060. (See another example of such documents here.) These documents also establish needed precedent for ambition-setting agreements, such as the US-China Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s (10 November 2021). The Opinions provide additional insights on key China initiatives such as the phaseout of coal, including the target to “achieve negative growth of coal consumption in the Fenwei Plain region by 2025.” (The Shanxi-Shaanxi-Henan region is known as the Fenwei Plain,” where coal-mine emissions are a major pollutant.) Also, the Opinions call for strengthening greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring and control of non-CO2 GHGs such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), as well as responses to address climate change’s impact on the cryosphere. This reflects China policymakers’ increasing awareness that substantial reductions in non-CO2 climate pollutants, along with CO2 reductions and protection of the cryosphere, are essential to keep global warming in check.

The Opinions add to plans and policy guidance the Chinese government released this year promoting coordinated action on pollution control and emissions reduction, including the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 (2021). The Opinions specify policy actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as air, water and soil pollution control, along with key targets that such actions should reach by 2025. The Opinions describe mechanisms to support achievement of these targets, including government incentives, funding allocation, and GHGs monitoring.

On the subject of non-CO2 GHG emissions reduction, the Opinions provide that China will strengthen the control of non-CO2 GHGs, including methane, improve the environmental management of ozone-depleting substances and HFCs, and promote synergistic emissions reduction of VOCs and NOx for ozone pollution control.

Key policy highlights and targets relevant to non-CO2 GHG mitigation in the Opinions also include those described below.

On green and low-carbon development, China will:

  • Prioritize actions to achieve carbon peaking in key sectors and industries, including the energy, urban and rural construction, transportation, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, building materials, and petrochemicals sectors/industries;
  • Improve inventories on GHG emissions sources and GHG emissions monitoring and verification systems, and incorporate GHG emissions into the project environmental impact assessment system; and
  • Strictly control the growth of coal consumption during the period 2021-2025, increase the non-fossil energy consumption to about 20% (same as provided in the 14th Five-Year Plan), reduce the coal consumption in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and surrounding areas by about 10%, reduce the coal consumption in the Yangtze River Delta region by about 5%, and achieve negative growth of coal consumption in the Fenwei Plain region by 2025.

On the control of air pollution, China will:

  • Promote comprehensive management of VOCs in key industries, including the petrochemical, chemical, painting, pharmaceutical, packaging, and printing industries, and into the storage, transportation and sale of oil products;
  • Reduce, by 2025, the total emissions of VOCs and NOx by more than 10% respectively from 2020 levels (as also provided in the 14th Five-Year Plan);
  • Expand on clean transportation and the control of diesel-engine emissions; and
  • Strengthen the comprehensive reutilization of crop straw and the ban on open burning.

On the control of water pollution, China will:

  • Continue to advance the treatment of urban water bodies; endeavor to eliminate, for Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta regions, black and smelly water bodies by 2024 (other cities at the county level shall achieve the same goal by 2025).

On the control of soil pollution, China will:

  • Advance the treatment of black and smelly water bodies in rural areas; increase, by 2025, domestic sewage treatment to 40% in rural areas;
  • Reduce application amounts and increase efficiency of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; increase, by 2025, the efficiency of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to 43%;
  • Promote reutilization of livestock and poultry manure; increase comprehensive reutilization of livestock and poultry manure to more than 80% nationwide by 2025; and
  • Convert about 100 prefecture-level-and-above cities to “waste-free cities” during the period 2021-2025.

It is also noteworthy that the Opinions recognize that China will also effectively respond to the impact of climate change involving the melting of the cryosphere for the benefits of ecological and environmental safety.

Additional IGSD China resources: