Transition pathways of China and implications for climate change mitigation: evolution of the buildings sector
Hultman, Nathan E
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China, as the world’s largest energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter, also has the largest construction market. Energy use in Chinese buildings (including traditional biomass) constitutes 28% of China’s total final energy consumption and 16% of global building final energy consumption in 2012. Driven by economic growth, urbanization, and lifestyle changes, energy consumption in Chinese buildings is expected to continue to grow. Buildings will therefore be an important element of efforts by the Chinese government to plan infrastructure, constrain energy growth, or meet a range of related sustainability goals. This dissertation examines the evolution of the Chinese buildings sector and focuses on three issues. First, in order to make robust projections, we investigate the historical growth of the buildings sector in China, Japan, and the United States. The growth paths of Japan and the United States provide useful historical analogs for China’s future growth. We find that the change in energy use intensity was driven by short-term events, such as introduction of new policies, and showed greater variability compared to other drivers, whereas growth in per capita floorspace and household characteristics showed consistent long-term trends and was less responsive to short-term events. Second, we examine the growth in floorspace by province and building type. We use Gompertz model to estimate future floorspace growth, as it captures dynamics between floorspace and income and the saturated demand. This study shows variation across provinces in floorspace growth and a wider range of floorspace at the aggregate level than literature. It also has strong policy implications, as housing policies, in addition to building energy policies, are critical to curbing the growth in China’s building energy use. Third, using the Global Change Assessment Model-China (GCAM-China), we assess China’s future building energy demand under different transition pathways while accounting for provincial heterogeneity. We find that distinct development paths can lead to different levels of building energy consumption in China (25-42 EJ in 2050), and most growth would happen in the next two decades. Strong, provincial-specific near-term policy actions are needed in order to avoid locking in the inefficient infrastructure.