Turning the carbon supertanker: Sectoral feasibility of climate change mitigation in China

Joshua Busby, Xue Gao, Sarang Shidore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Whether China can slow the growth of emissions of greenhouse gases and ultimately reduce them has become a central question for climate mitigation. In previous research on India, we developed a theoretical framework to assess the structural characteristics of different sectors and identify which ones were most amenable to mitigation. In this article, we extend that approach to China and review the nine sectors responsible for most of the country's emissions. These include electricity (disaggregating renewables, nuclear, and coal), road transportation, four disaggregated industry sub-sectors (steel, cement, fertilizers, and oil refining), and buildings. We identify two sets of attributes, what we called political/organizational feasibility and techno-economic feasibility, that together shape the possibilities for emissions mitigation. Our central intuition is that fragmentation − on the government or market side or both − makes collective action more difficult. Cement, steel, and oil refining possess favorable characteristics on both political/organizational feasibility and techno-economic feasibility, while fertilizers and renewables pose the most difficult challenges on both dimensions. Buildings and road transport are mixed cases, where techno-economic feasibility is high while political/organizational dynamics are more challenging. Finally, coal and nuclear are mixed cases where political/organizational feasibility is high but techno-economic aspects are more challenging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-210
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Climate change
  • Mitigation
  • Political feasibility
  • Sectoral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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