As China's greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at a dramatic pace (recently surpassing the United States as the world's largest emitter), China has come under increasing pressure from the international community to curtail its emissions. Although the Chinese government has resisted committing to aggressive action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, recent years have seen a shift in policy. The Chinese government has moved to position China as a leading promoter of clean technologies and renewable energies, and it may now be willing to assume more of a leadership role in combating climate change.

Existing Regulatory Programs

The Chinese government has promulgated several new policies and energy-related regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On June 4, 2007, the Chinese government promulgated China's Climate Change Program, China's first comprehensive official guideline addressing climate change. While the Program does not impose any greenhouse gas reduction obligations on any entity or enterprise, it elaborates on the goal of reducing such emissions by outlining specific objectives and principles, as well as general measures to be taken in the years ahead.

To protect the nation from the economic and environmental risks associated with over-reliance on fossil fuels and the destabilizing effects of climate change, China also promulgated several laws and regulations, including the Energy Conservation Law and the Renewable Energy Law. These steps seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a shift in energy consumption, improvements in energy efficiency, and the development of clean energies (e.g., solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal).

China has formed various administrative agencies to implement its climate and energy regulations. At the central government level, the decision-making agency for greenhouse gas emissions is the Leading Group for Climate Change and Emission Reduction, organized by the State Council pursuant to China's Climate Change Program in 2007. The Leading Group is led by Premier Wen Jiabao and consists of the chief leaders of 29 departments of the State Council.

The Leading Group has an office mainly responsible for studying climate change and adopting relevant measures and policies. This office is also part of the National Development and Reform Commission, which is responsible for implementing China's participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and other international climate change agreements on a voluntary basis. China has no mandatory obligations under these agreements. Local branches of the Commission oversee greenhouse gas emission matters at the local level and are authorized to adopt rules applicable to their respective regions.

Significant Reduction in Carbon Intensity of Economy Sought

Despite its continuing resistance in international climate negotiations to a legally binding cap on China's greenhouse gas emissions, Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated in December 2009 at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen that China would voluntarily seek to reduce itscarbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, known as "carbon intensity," by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, when compared with 2005 emission levels. China has also incorporated this target into its mid- and long-term blueprint of national economic and social development, and it plans to provide funds and financial incentives to stimulate research, development, and industrialization of clean and renewable energy.