China should tie the career prospects of officials to their performance in developing both a low carbon economy and the restructuring of the economy to realize the nation's new target of a 40-45 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020.
Leading Chinese economists and researchers yesterday made the suggestions and said the target is roughly feasible.
"The most urgent measure, I believe, is to reform the officials' performance assessment system," said economist Gao Shangquan. Gao is the former head of the government agency on reform.
Gao said the Chinese government's target announcement is vital in boosting a new round of domestic reform.
He also added that officials, especially those at provincial and local levels, are keen on economic growth and expansion because their career assessment is mainly tied to achievements in those two regards.
"We should try our best to set up an expanded assessment system to encourage local governments to develop a low carbon economy," Gao said.
China has set an assessment system to ensure the fulfillment of its 20-percent, energy-efficiency target for the 2006-10 period. But it is unclear how many officials have been punished or promoted because of their performances in saving energy.
Chi Fulin, president of the China (Hainan) Reform and Development Research Institute said China's goal has come at a good time as it prepares the 12th five-year (2011-15) national economic and social plan.
"It's very clear that China is well-prepared to develop a low-carbon economy," Chi said. "China is shifting to a low-carbon era."
Xie Zhenhua, China's special climate change envoy, said at a press conference yesterday that the country will restructure its economy, improve forestation and expand renewable energy use to meet the carbon intensity target.
Jiang Kejun, a researcher with the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, said that cutting carbon intensity by 40-45 percent demands three prerequisites: keeping annual GDP growth at 8 percent, increasing renewable energy use to 15 percent and reducing energy intensity by 18-20 percent during the 2011-15 period.
"Uncertainty in achieving the target lies in difficulty to maintain an annual GDP growth of 8 percent, because the current economic situation home and abroad is not good," he said.
"But I am confident that China would have no problem in reaching its goal."
Zou Ji, an environment policy professor with Renmin University of China, expressed prudent optimism in reaching the target.
"But China will pay a very high price, about 1-2 percent of its GDP every year," he said.