Carbon emissions in China: How far can new efforts bend the curve?

Xiliang Zhang*, Valerie J. Karplus, Tianyu Qi, Da Zhang, Jiankun He

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


While China is on track to meet its global climate commitments through 2020, China's post-2020 CO2 emissions trajectory is highly uncertain, with projections varying widely across studies. Over the past year, the Chinese government has announced new policy directives to deepen economic reform, to protect the environment, and to limit fossil energy use in China. To evaluate how new policy directives could affect energy and climate change outcomes, we simulate two levels of policy effort-a continued effort scenario that extends current policies beyond 2020 and an accelerated effort scenario that reflects newly announced policies-on the evolution of China's energy and economic system over the next several decades. We perform simulations using the China-in-Global Energy Model, C-GEM, a bespoke recursive-dynamic computable general equilibrium model with global coverage and detailed calibration of China's economy and future trends. Importantly, we find that both levels of policy effort would bend down the CO2 emissions trajectory before 2050 without undermining economic development. Specifically, in the accelerated effort scenario, we find that coal use peaks around 2020, and CO2 emissions level off around 2030 at 10 bmt, without undermining continued economic growth consistent with China reaching the status of a "well-off society" by 2050.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-395
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Climate policy
  • CO pricing
  • Economic reform
  • Energy
  • Energy-economic model


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