China’s Climate Transition Outlook 2023: Expert Survey and Interviews

As part of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air’s (CREA) annual China Climate Transition Outlook report to measure insiders’ views on whether China is on track with its climate commitments, CREA and the International Society for Energy Transition Studies (ISETS) have published a joint expert survey of 89 climate and energy experts.

The experts in this year’s survey are more optimistic than those interviewed last year and, overall, believe that China’s economic situation after the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the country’s energy transition and CO2 peaking. 21% of experts believe China’s CO2 will peak before 2025, up from 15% in 2022’s survey. The percentage of experts expecting China’s CO2 emissions to rise more than 15% above the 2020 level before peaking fell from 69% to 56%. This change may reflect the experts’ increased expectations for China to achieve its emission reduction goals. 

Most of the experts believe that China is on track to peak its carbon emissions before 2030, but limiting emissions increases before the peak remains a significant challenge, as most experts expected emissions to increase by 15% or more from 2020 to the peak. Over half of the experts surveyed expressed optimism about China reaching its peak primary energy consumption before 2030. However, the findings are mixed for the country’s coal consumption as it is closely linked to China’s socio-economic developments. Some 30 experts, or 34% of those surveyed, are uncertain when the peak will be achieved.

  • Power sector: Experts remain divided in their opinion on when the emissions from the country’s power sector would peak. While 27 predicted the peak only after 2030, five foresaw the peak in 2030, and 22 believed the peak to happen between 2026 and 2030.
  • Steel sector: The steel sector is more optimistic, with nearly half of the experts surveyed predicting that carbon emissions will peak before 2025 – an increase of 12 percentage points from 2022.
  • Cement industry: In the 2023 survey, nearly 60% of experts believe that carbon emissions from China’s cement industry will peak before 2025, while 24% predict that the peak will not occur until after 2030. This reflects a shift from the 2022 data, where 38% anticipated a post-2030 peak. The decrease to 24% suggests a more optimistic view among experts regarding the progress of emissions reduction in the cement industry and the anticipated timing of its peak.
  • Transportation sector: Compared to 2022, the 2023 survey shows that more experts tend to believe that the peak of carbon emissions in the transportation sector will come earlier. Predictions for a peak before 2030 have significantly increased, while predictions for a peak between 2030 and 2035 and between 2035 and 2040 have correspondingly decreased.

The report is available in Chinese.

Xunpeng Shi, International Society for Energy Transition Studies (ISETS); Muyi Yang, International Society for Energy Transition Studies (ISETS); Shurui Wang (Institutes of Science and Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences))

Partners: International Society for Energy Transition Studies (ISETS)