In the past two weeks, the central government has published reports detailing how local governments undermined China’s key climate goal. The country failed to achieve its energy-intensity reduction target during the last Five Year Plan period (2016-20).
Central environmental inspectors criticised eight provinces for developing energy-intensive projects. “Some local governments did not deeply understand the low-carbon transition, and relied on the traditional development path,” the inspectors said.
The inspectors found many such projects were under construction before being approved. Among Shanxi province’s 101 energy intensive projects under construction, 71 had no approval. In Liaoning province, local authorities waived penalties for such projects.
Local governments also modified targets and plans to make way for energy-heavy projects. Shanxi loosened its target of controlling coal consumption in its total energy mix, from 73% to 80%. Even so, the inspection reports found it unable to meet the revised target due to weak implementation. In Anhui, the government planned to increase coal consumption despite the central government’s requirement otherwise.
The “dual controls” – of energy intensity and caps on energy consumption – were empty words for some local governments, the reports revealed. Instead of holding subordinates accountable for failing their “dual controls” targets, the Guangxi provincial government only gave verbal criticism to its municipal governments. Some local governments also reversed central policy to increase electricity prices for high-polluting industries, instead allowing them to pay less in the name of “absorbing surplus power.”
Read our analysis of how the “dual controls” could help China achieve its carbon peak goal.