Pursuing low-carbon growth policy at unprecedented scale

China has pursued aggressive climate and energy policies with particular focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Still, between 2000 and 2010, China represented 68% of the increase in global energy-related CO₂ emissions.


These graphs show the changes in emissions, emissions drivers, and policy in the Buildings sector in China


Emissions Building sector emissions

Reported buildings-related emissions fell during the 1990s, possibly due to district heating improvements, but more likely due to underreporting of coal use and measurement issues. Since 2002, emissions have been rising steadily due to growing energy use in buildings.


    Emissions Drivers Energy consumption by fuel source

    Particularly in urban residences, electronics and appliances became a significant end use, more than offsetting efficiency improvements in heating. Appliance use contributed to the increase in share of electricity in energy, as did the shift away from coal use.


      Policy Estimated impact of policies targeting energy use reduction

      Increased enforcement of energy building codes saved an estimated 60 million tonnes of coal equivalent per year, more than all other targeted policies combined.

        • Urbanization and rapid building were already underway in the 1980s. China initiated building energy conservation policies, primarily focused on district heating in the colder regions of the country.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Residential Building Energy Conservation Design
            • Standard targeted coldest regions, 1986
            • State Planning Commission Announcement Enforcing Urban District Heating, 1986
            • First Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards introduced, 1989
          • Underlying changes

            • Urbanization led to new building construction
            • Rapid increase in total building area
        • China moved into its pattern of build and rebuild, demolishing older buildings but building new buildings at a faster pace. In concert, China focused on new building energy efficiency standards and continued heating policies.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Urban District Heating Industrial Policy Measures of 1992 stated district heating as important target for pollution reduction and energy conservation
            • 9th Five-Year Plan, 1996-2000
              30% effciency improvement targets for new residential buildings with moving baseline year
              Phased-in 50% and additional 30% effciency improvement targets for new commercial buildings
              Guidelines for building retrofits
              Heat metering pilots
            • Energy Conservation Law of 1997 stipulated energy conservation principles for building design and construction
          • Underlying changes

            • Fuel switching from coal to electricity in heating and cooking
            • Increase in energy use from household appliances
            • Increase in district heating energy efficiency (late 1990s)
            • Continued rapid increase in total building area
        • Total building floorspace increased rapidly as new construction outpaced continued demolition of older buildings. Lifestyle energy intensity and rural building energy consumption increased. China increased the number and ambition of energy-saving standards for new buildings and retrofits.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Residential building efficiency
              Technical standard for retrofit of district heated buildings, 2000
              New building effciency targets ratcheted up throughout decade—65% improvements by late 2000s
              Energy Conservation Design Standard extended to entire country
              State Council Announcement on Re-enforcing Residential Building Energy Conservation Auditing, 2004
            • Commercial building effciency
              Increased new commercial building effciency target to 50%
              11th FYP required large commercial and government buildings to lead retrofitting
            • Energy Conservation Medium-Long Term Plan, 2004
              Building retrofits requirements tiered according to municipality size
              Established energy effciency labeling for appliances Tax incentives for heat providers, 2004, 2006
            • Ten Key Energy-Saving Technology Improvement Projects (e.g, District Heating and CHP, Building Energy-Saving, Green Lighting)
            • 2007 Energy Conservation Law set standards for air-conditioned buildings and required meters for district-heated buildings
            • Promoting Building-Integrated Renewable Energy policy, 2009
            • Energy-Saving Appliance Subsidies, 2009
          • Underlying changes

            • Continued fuel switching from coal to electricity in heating and cooking
            • Continued increase in energy use from household appliances
            • Increasing rural building energy consumption (CPI, unpublished data)
            • Significant demolition of older buildings
            • Rapid total building area increase continued— commercial building floor space tripled from 2000-2008 (CPI, unpublished data)