Press releases

China’s 12th Five Year Plan makes it on track to meet Cancun pledges

Published: 04/10/2011

Panama City – Tuesday 4 October 2011 - China is on track to meet – or even surpass – some of its Cancun climate pledges, yet its emissions will rise higher than expected, according to the latest Climate Action Tracker (1), released today at the Panama climate negotiations.

The update includes an analysis of China’s 12th Five Year Plan, announced in March this year, and measured it against China’s climate pledge from Cancun (2).

It has also calculated the impact of the US delaying action– and analysed Brazil’s new numbers announced in April.

“The overall picture shows us that a higher than expected economic growth rate brings with it higher emissions – and the sooner the switch is made to cleaner energy sources, the better, in order to avoid locking in climate-damaging energy,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

“It also illustrates the risks and uncertainties of using business as usual scenarios as the basis for emission reduction pledges.”

The main findings on China are:

  • China is set to surpass its Cancun Agreement pledge of 40-45% reduction in emissions per unit of GDP by 2020 (from 2005 levels), by rapidly reducing its energy intensity and introducing renewable energy and other non-fossil energy sources.
  • These targets constitute a major effort and the non-fossil target leads to emissions dropping by around 580 to 800 Mt CO2 (or 6-8%) below business as usual in 2020.
  • Yet faster than expected economic growth means that emissions in 2020 are likely to be higher than previous estimates - by about 1 gigatonne of CO2 equivalent a year. 

Meanwhile, the absence so far of substantial US action to meet its Copenhagen pledge of a 17% emissions reduction by 2020 (at 2005 levels) will prove more expensive with every year of delay.  If the US doesn’t start acting until 2015, it will need to reduce emissions at a rate of 3% a year. If substantial action had begun in 2010 immediately after Copenhagen, it would only have needed to reduce emissions at a rate of 1.3% a year – a large difference in costs.

“It is becoming so much clearer that while China has achieved a lot, it still has a way to go as its GDP continues to rise fast.  And the longer the US delays action, the more it will cost to meet its target,” said Niklas Höhne, of Ecofys.

CAT also analysed Brazil’s new business as usual scenario that forms the baseline for its 36% to 39% reduction target. Brazil’s new baseline is 18% higher than before - a difference of over 0.5 GtCO2 (+18%) for 2020 BAU emissions.

“The range of uncertainties put up in these different pledges point clearly to one thing: there is an urgent need for a clear system of monitoring and reporting,” said Hare.


Background on the Climate Action Tracker

The “Climate Action Tracker”,, is a science-based assessment by Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) that provides regularly updated information on countries’ reduction proposals.

The Climate Action Tracker reflects the latest status of the progress being made at international climate negotiations. The team that performed the analyses followed peer-reviewed scientific methods (see publications in Nature and other journals) and significantly contributed to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report.

The Climate Action Tracker enables the public to track the emission commitments and actions of countries. The website provides an up-to-date assessment of individual country pledges about greenhouse gas emission reductions. It also plots the consequences for the global climate of commitments and actions made ahead of and during the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

The Climate Action Tracker shows that much greater transparency is needed when it comes to targets and actions proposed by countries. In the case of developed countries, accounting for forests and land‐use change significantly degrades the overall stringency of the targets. For developing countries, climate plans often lack calculations of the resulting impact on emissions.


Dr. Niklas Höhne
+49 (0) 162 1013420

Director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys and lead author at the IPCC developed, together with Dr. Michel den Elzen from MNP, the table in the IPCC report that is the basis for the reduction range of -25% to -40% below 1990 levels by 2020 that is currently being discussed for Annex I countries.

Ecofys – experts in energy
Established in 1984 with the vision of achieving “sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert in renewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & markets as well as energy & climate policies. The unique synergy between those areas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective, practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clients all over the world. With offices in the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, China and the US Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solving energy and climate challenges.

Climate Analytics
CLIMATE ANALYTICS GmbH is a non-­‐profit organization based in Potsdam, Germany. It has been established to synthesize climate science and policy research that is relevant for international climate policy negotiations. It aims to provide scientific, policy and analytical support for Small Island States (SIDS) and the least developed country group (LDCs) negotiators, as well as non-­‐ governmental organisations and other stakeholders in the ‘post-­‐2012’ negotiations. Furthermore, it assists in building in-­‐house capacity within SIDS and LDCs.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
The PIK conducts research into global climate change and issues of sustainable development. Set up in 1992, the Institute is regarded as a pioneer in interdisciplinary research and as one of the world's leading establishments in this field. Scientists, economists and social scientists work together, investigating how the earth is changing as a system, studying the ecological, economic and social consequences of climate change, and assessing which strategies are appropriate for sustainable development.