Making Sense of China and India’s Low-Carbon Pathways

By Ma Yuge and Joel Sandhu - 16 September 2014

China and India’s low-carbon development is crucial for global sustainability and domestic welfare. However, embedded political and economic obstacles have prevented a smooth and effective transition towards a low-carbon future in the two emerging countries. This article analyzes China and India’s energy efficiency policies as a lens into this question. We argue that the existing energy efficiency and broader low-carbon development pathways – India’s market-oriented approach and China’s target-driven paradigm – are not sufficient to address the challenges. Policymakers should reflect on and fix the shortcomings of the current pathways by paying close attention to the various forms of maneuvers of low-carbon policies in the given political and economic environments in China and India.

Policy Implications

  • China needs to develop a coordinated and trustworthy energy and environment monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system that can better inform the central government about the progress in meeting energy conservation and other low-carbon targets at local levels.
  • The Indian government should play a bigger role in financing and implementing low-carbon policy schemes by granting stronger status to respective nodal central government agencies, as well as establishing dedicated and effective implementing agencies at subnational levels.
  • Global policy makers who are concerned about China and India’s low-carbon development should pay more attention to the distinction between the two countries that asks for specific rather than generalized low-carbon policy solutions.
  • In order to understand the crucial factors of low-carbon transition in emerging economies, international intellectual communities can generate more ideas through in-depth China-India comparative studies, especially taking consideration of their specific political economic contexts.