- Joint Program Report
Decoupling fossil energy demand from economic growth is crucial to China’s sustainable development. In addition to energy and carbon intensity targets enacted under the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011–2015), a coal or fossil energy cap is under discussion as a way to constrain the absolute quantity of energy used. Importantly, implementation of such a cap may be compatible with existing policies and institutions. We evaluate the efficiency and distributional implications of alternative energy cap designs using a numerical general equilibrium model of China’s economy, built on the 2007 regional input-output tables for China and the Global Trade Analysis Project global data set. We find that a national cap on fossil energy implemented through a tax on final energy products and an energy saving allowance trading market is the most costeffective design, while a regional coal-only cap is the least cost-effective design. We further find that a regional coal cap results in large welfare losses in some provinces. Capping fossil energy use at the national level is found to be nearly as cost effective as a national CO2 emissions target that penalizes energy use based on carbon content.