Local Implementation of Energy Conservation Policies in China

  • Genia KostkaEmail author


This chapter examines China’s national energy policies and the way in which local governments implement policies to reduce energy consumption. It illustrates how Chinese government officials often opt to “kill two (or more) birds with one stone” by choosing implementation pathways that balance local priorities with national energy targets, and how they are more likely to faithfully implement energy conservation policies and projects that also address salient business, economic, safety, pollution, and political legitimacy interests and concerns in their localities. Local governments are less likely to strictly implement energy conservation policies without “bundling” potential and employ foot-dragging measures such as seeking loopholes in the implementation guidelines.


  1. British Petroleum. 2017. British Petroleum Energy Outlook: Country and regional insights – China. Available at
  2. China Climate Change Info-Net. 2017.03 The National Fund Increases Its Support to ESER. Available at
  3. China News. 2007. Nuclear long-term development plan 2005–2020. Available at
  4. Crossley, D. and X. Wang. 2015. Case Study: China’s Grid Company Energy Efficiency Obligation. Beijing, China: Regulatory Assistance Project. Available at
  5. Eaton, S. and G. Kostka. 2013. Does Cadre Turnover Help or Hinder China’s Green Rise? Evidence from Shanxi Province. In Chinese Environmental Governance Dynamics, Challenges, and Prospects in a Changing Society, Bingqiang Ren and Huisheng Shou (eds), pp: 83–111. Palgrave Macmillan, NY.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eaton, S. and G. Kostka. 2014. Authoritarian Environmentalism Undermined? Local Leaders’ Time Horizons and Environmental Policy Implementation. The China Quarterly 218: 359–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eaton, S. and G. Kostka. 2017. Central Protectionism in China: The “Central SOE Problem”, The China Quarterly 231: 685–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Economy, E. C. The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  9. Goffman, E. 1974. Frame Analysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Harrison, T. and G. Kostka. 2014. Balancing priorities, aligning interests: Developing mitigation capacity in China and India, Comparative Political Studies 47 (3): 450–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harrison. T. and G. Kostka 2017. Bureaucratic manoeuvres and the local politics of climate change mitigation in China and India, Development Policy Review, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  12. Heberer, T. and Senz, A. 2011. Streamlining Local Behaviour through Communication, Incentives and Control: A Case Study of Local Environmental Policies in China. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 40 (3): 77–112.Google Scholar
  13. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2010. China Overtakes the United States to Become World’s Largest Energy Consumer, 20 July 2010. Available at
  14. Johnson, P. M. 2005. Logrolling, Glossary of Political Economic Terms. Available at
  15. Kaufman, B. J. 2012. Drivers and Barriers for Sustainable Urban Form: The Case of China, Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.Google Scholar
  16. Kostka, G. and W. Hobbs. 2012. Local energy efficiency policy implementation in China: Bridging the gap between national priorities and local interests, The China Quarterly 211: 765–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kostka, G. and W. Hobbs. 2013. Embedded interests and the managerial local state: the political economy of methanol fuel-switching in China, Journal of Contemporary China 22 (80): 204–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kostka, G. and K. Shin. 2013. Energy conservation through energy service companies: Empirical analysis from China, Energy Policy 52: 748–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kostka, G. and X. Yu. 2015. Career backgrounds of municipal Party secretaries in China: Why do so few municipal Party secretaries rise from the county level?, Modern China 41 (5): 467–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kostka, G. 2016. Command without control: The case of China’s environmental target system, Regulation & Governance 10: 58–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kostka, G. China’s local environmental politics, In E. Sternfeld (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Environmental Policy in China. 2017. Routledge: 31–47.Google Scholar
  22. Kostka, G. and J. Nahm. 2017. Central–Local Relations: Recentralization and Environmental Governance in China (Introduction to Special Section), The China Quarterly, 231: 567–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewis, J. I. 2017. Green energy innovation in China, In E. Sternfeld (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Environmental Policy in China. 2017. Routledge: 280–290.Google Scholar
  24. Lichtenberg, E. and C. Ding. 2009. Local Officials as Land Developers: Urban Spatial Expansion in China. Journal of Urban Economic 66: 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lieberthal, K. and M. Oksenberg. 1988. Policy-Making in China: Leaders, Structures, and Processes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lo A. L. 2013. Carbon trading in a socialist market economy: Can China make a difference? Ecological Economics 87: 72–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lo, K. 2014. A critical review of China’s rapidly developing renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 29: 508–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lo W. H. C. and S. Y. Tang. 2006. Institutional Reform, Economic Changes, and Local Environmental Management in China: The Case of Guangdong Province. Environmental Politics 15 (2): 190–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Man, J. Y. 2011. Local Public Finance in China: An Overview. In J.Y. Man and Y.H. Hong (eds), China’s Local Public Finance in Transition. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: 3–17.Google Scholar
  30. Meidan, M., P. Andrews-Speed, and M. Xin. 2009. Shaping China’s Energy Policy: Actors and Processes. Journal of Contemporary China 18 (61): 591–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mol, A. P. J. and N. T. Carter. 2006. China’s Environmental Governance in Transition. Environmental Politics 15 (2): 149–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Price, L., X. Wang, and J. Yun. 2010. The Challenge of Reducing Energy-Consumption of the Top-1000 Largest Industrial Enterprises in China. Energy Policy 38 (11): 6485–6498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ran R. 2013. Perverse Incentive Structure and Policy Implementation Gap in China’s Local Environmental Politics. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 15 (1): 17–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Scrase, I. and D. Ockwell. 2010. The Role of Discourse and Linguistic Framing Effects in Sustaining High Carbon Energy Policy: An Accessible Introduction. Energy Policy 38 (5): 2225–2233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shin S. 2013. China’s failure of policy innovation: the case of sulphur dioxide emission trading. Environmental Politics 22 (6): 918–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. State Council. 2011. China’s top ten key energy-saving projects saving 340 million tons of standard coal capacity. Available at
  37. State Council. 2012. China’s Energy Policy 2012, Available at
  38. Stocking, A. and T. Dinan. 2015. China’s Growing Energy Demand: Implications for the United States, Working Paper Series Congressional Budget Office Washington, D.C., Working Paper No. 2015-05: 1–37.Google Scholar
  39. Swartz, J. 2016. China’s National Emissions Trading System - Implications for Carbon Markets and Trade, Issue Paper 6.
  40. The Economist. 2015. Shanxi province. King Coal’s misrule. The rise and fall of a corrupt coal-fueled economy. London, 28 November. Available at
  41. Tian L. and W. Ma. 2009. Government Intervention in City Development of China: A Tool of Land Supply. Land Use Policy, 26 (3): 599–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van Rooij, B. 2006. Implementation of Chinese Environmental Law: Regular Enforcement and Political Campaigns. Development and Change, 37 (1): 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wei, Y. and M. Zhao. 2009. Urban Spill Over Vs. Local Urban Sprawl: Entangling Land-Use Regulations in the Urban Growth of China’s Megacities. Land Use Policy 26 (4): 1031–1045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Whiting, S. 2001. Power and Wealth in Rural China: The Political Economy of Institutional Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wong C. 2010. Fiscal Reform: Paying for the Harmonious Society. China Economic Quarterly 14 (2): 20–25.Google Scholar
  46. Wong C. 2013. Paying for Urbanization: Challenges for China’s Municipal Finance in the 21st Century. In: Bahl R. J. Linn and D. Wetzel eds. 2013. Metropolitan Government Finances in Developing Countries. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute for Land Policy.Google Scholar
  47. Wu J., Y. H. Deng, J. Huang, R. Morck and B. Yeung. 2013. Incentives and Outcomes: China’s Environmental Policy. NBER Working Paper No. 18754, February 2013.Google Scholar
  48. Wu, J., C. Zuidema, K. Gugerell, and G. de Roo, 2017. Mind the gap! Barriers and implementation deficiencies of energy policies at the local scale in urban China. Energy Policy 106: 201–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yu, X. 2014. A Disaggregate Analysis of China’s Regional Development, Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.Google Scholar
  50. Zhou, N., M. Levine, and L. Price. 2010. Overview of Current Energy Efficiency Policies in China. Energy Policy 38 (11): 6439–6452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations