Governance of the Low-Carbon Transition in China

The Building and Transport Sectors

  • Lin Xiaoli (Autor/in)
  • Julia Aristova (Autor/in)


Rapid urbanization is one of the key features of China’s modern development.
Chinese cities, growing in number and scale, consume evermore energy and their
carbon footprint makes the country the world’s largest carbon emitter. In response,
China is now pursuing low-carbon development. The low-carbon transition ideal
suggests a fundamental change in the way that energy is produced and consumed.
Governance plays a crucial role in the low-carbon transition process. Low-carbon
governance in China has a hierarchical structure to it. The national government
establishes strategies and the legal framework for it, whereas local government is
responsible for its actual implementation. The steps that local government takes are
analyzed from two perspectives in this paper: mode of governance and type of
initiative. Case studies of low-carbon governance in the building and transport
sectors show that a mixed mode of governance is characteristic of both, yet specific
combinations of modes lead to different results. Risky and quick decisions made by
the local government lead to fast results. However, these projects are prone to being
unsustainable over the course of time. The current lack of participation by non-state
actors in low-carbon governance in China is a key obstacle to a successful transition,
and the effective reduction of carbon emissions.


China, low-carbon transition, urban governance, governance innovation, sustainable urban development, geothermal heat pump, public bike sharing