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Towards low carbon development in China: a comparison of national and global models

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The RoSE (Roadmaps to Sustainable Energy Futures) project provides a coordinated, model-based analysis to manage the transition from carbon intensive to low carbon economies using several global integrated assessment models to explore different GHG stabilization scenarios. China TIMES provides a detailed description of the Chinese energy system that can be used to check the realism of transition scenarios for China against global models. A reference scenario with China’s target of lowering its carbon intensity by 40–45 % by 2020 compared to the 2005 level is considered, and 12 carbon constraint scenarios with different levels of carbon intensity reduction beyond 2020 are simulated by China TIMES. The results of carbon emissions pathways and energy system transitions in different scenarios are analyzed. The results from China TIMES are compared to those for both the reference and carbon policy scenarios (550 ppm CO2eq and 450 ppm CO2eq stabilization targets) for four global models, GCAM, IPAC, REMIND, and WITCH. The differences in decarbonizaton pathways across models are mainly attributed to different model structures and modeling approaches, different reference scenario definitions, different policy targets, differences in model assumptions concerning technology availability and techno-economic characteristics of the technologies, and differences in the estimation of the energy demand response to climate policy. The path towards low carbon development for China includes challenges and opportunities. Substantial efforts may be required to transform the economic development mode, to speed up innovation, R&D, and deployment of advanced low carbon technologies, to strengthen institutions, to advocate low carbon lifestyles, and to enhance international cooperation.

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We would like to thank the Ministry of Science and Technology of China for the support to develop China TIMES model (2012BAC20B01), and Stiftung Mercator and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the support on scenario runs and model comparisons. And we also would like to thank Elmar Kriegler, Ioanna Mouratiadou, Katherine Calvin, Enrica Decian, Kejun Jiang and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the paper.

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Correspondence to Wenying Chen.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on "The Impact of Economic Growth and Fossil Fuel Availability on Climate Protection" with Guest Editors Elmar Kriegler, Ottmar Edenhofer, Ioanna Mouratiadou, Gunnar Luderer, and Jae Edmonds.

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Chen, W., Yin, X. & Zhang, H. Towards low carbon development in China: a comparison of national and global models. Climatic Change 136, 95–108 (2016).

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