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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.

  • It also aims to have its share of energy from non-fossil fuels at 20% by 2025.

Yes, but: Greenpeace's Li Shuo, who tracks Chinese policy carefully, called the plan an "indecisive signal" that simply incorporates China's existing intentions.

  • "These targets represent the intention of the Chinese government to implement the climate announcement made by President Xi Jinping at the Climate Ambition Summit last December. But they do not go further than that," he said in a brief analysis.
  • "The plan also defers key questions of how China intends to accelerate its decarbonization into the future," Li wrote.
  • "We were hoping for more answers on climate issues, but what we got are more questions," he told the Financial Times.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest carbon emitter.

  • The country pledged in September to have its emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, but concrete steps toward those goals remain hazy at best.
  • And, as AP notes, the plan "did not mention any ban on new coal projects, which experts say would be a significant step."

What we're watching: The relative absence of new info raises the stakes of Biden administration moves to secure stronger efforts in forthcoming diplomacy — including the climate summit the White House is convening next month.

  • Li, meanwhile, said he's watching for more detailed documents to follow, such as "sectoral" 5-year plans and a climate-specific plan.

Go deeper

Mar 5, 2021 - World

China sets 2021 economic growth target at over 6%

China's Premier Li Keqiang at the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 5. Photo: Leo Ramierz/AFP via Getty Images

China on Friday set its annual economic growth target at "over 6%," and renewed its vow to become a more self-reliant technology leader, AP reports.

Why it matters: Premier Li Keqiang, China's top economic official, made the announcement as the world's second-biggest economy continues its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The latest target also comes "amid tension with Washington and Europe over trade, Hong Kong and human rights," AP notes.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Mounting emissions data paints bleak picture on Paris climate goals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers keep finding new ways to reveal that nations are together showing very few signs of getting on track to meet the Paris Agreement's goals.

One big question: That's whether a spate of recent analyses to that effect, and scientific reports coming later this year, will move the needle on meaningful new policies (not just targets).

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exxon outlines plan to expand carbon capture efforts

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Exxon on Wednesday said the company sees a $2 trillion "addressable market" in carbon capture and storage by 2040, and argues the company has strong expertise that positions it well.

The big picture: Exxon is vowing increased spending to expand its carbon capture efforts in coming years and looking into other areas, though it has eschewed the renewable power efforts of European peers.