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22 December 2020

#2 COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker

How is China's energy sector faring in the economic recovery?

#2 COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has precipitated the most severe global recession since the 1930s. On October 7, the International Monetary Fund projected that the global economy could contract by 4.4 percent year-over-year (YOY) in 2020. Though China witnessed the first ever economic contraction in more than four decades during the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, a subsequent speedy recovery is set to make China the only major economy to grow this year — a 2.0 percent increase relative to 2019, according to Agora’s most recent estimate. This is a 0.3 percentage point lower than in the previous issue of this COVID-19 impact analysis.

The European Union’s December 2019 pledge to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 briefly put Europe at the forefront of climate action. But in September 2020, China announces a carbon neutrality agenda for 2060. Since then, Japan, South Korea, and Canada have rolled out climate neutrality pledges for 2050. The USA is expected to follow soon after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January 2021.

China’s ambitious plan will help move the climate agenda forward in developed and developing country blocs. In addition, China’s unique status as the first hybrid superpower in the modern era means that Beijing can play an important bridging role between the blocs, especially when it comes to “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Agora Energiewende’s COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker provides quarterly updates on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected China’s energy sector, from energy supply and consumption to carbon emissions and other key indicators. It also features a series of reports to better inform the international community and Chinese audiences alike about COVID-19’s effects on the Chinese energy economy.

Key findings

  1. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge on September 22 that the country would reach peak national carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 sent positive shock waves through the climate policy world.

    As both current and future Chinese administrations will need to take President Xi’s climate pledge seriously, the announcement is expected to make a real difference in China’s energy transition, especially in the long run.

  2. Clean energy and climate targets set for the 14th Five Year Plan (FYP) period between 2021 and 2025 are expected to be more ambitious than would otherwise be the case in the absence of a carbon neutrality pledge.

    The Chinese energy policy community’s recent revisions to draft 14th FYPs for energy and climate indicate that the impacts are likely to be not only positive but also substantial.

  3. The short-lived COVID-induced climate benefits call for greener 14th FYPs for energy and climate.

    China’s monthly carbon emissions have exceeded pre-crisis levels. Greener 14th FYPs for energy and climate are urgently needed to steer the Chinese energy economy in a more sustainable direction.

Bibliographical data

Kevin Jianjun Tu, Zhou Yang
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Publication date

22 December 2020

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende (2020): COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker: How is China’s energy sector faring in the economic recovery? Issue 2.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker.


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