simon zadek

ICT and Low Carbon Growth in China






** View a summary of this page in simplified chinese. Click here.**

DESC China is working to explore the contribution Information Communication Technology (ICT) could make to China’s low carbon growth goals. Low carbon development is a core element of China’s strategy to realizing scientific and harmonious development. This is not only a response to climate change, but is in line with China’s priorities for energy security and accelerating industrial transformation.

ICTs have significant potential for driving low carbon development. ICTs can drive both economic growth and development, and help to decouple it from carbon emissions. International studies by the European Commission, the Climate Group, Global e-Sustainability Initiative, WWF, The Australian Information Industry Association and others have helped to assess and articulate this potential internationally and there is increasing interest in how this opportunity can be understood and unleashed in China.


A background paper – ICT and Low Carbon Growth in China - developed for DESC China by Simon Zadek, Maya Forstater, Kelly Yu and Jon Kornik presents a quantitative analysis of the impacts of ICT on low carbon growth in China, and includes insights with key Chinese and international policy and industrial research groups on the possible policy measures and initiatives that could secure the contribution of ICT to reducing China’s carbon footprint whilst promoting scientific development.

The paper – also available in simplified chinese – identifies large opportunities to drive productivity across the economy through ICT adoption. The paper estimates that by 2020 China’s ICT sector will contribute 5.9 trillion RMB of added growth to the economy, accounting for 7.2 % of the economy, and contributing 8.6% of overall economic growth over the decade. However, achieving these opportunities for low carbon growth requires action by technology providers and users, as well as enabling frameworks provided by public policy and procurement. There is currently a practical, communication and policy gap between the ICT and low carbon agendas.

The paper suggests collaborative action, supported by technology providers, could help to secure the potential contribution of ICTs to low carbon growth through:

  • Development of metrics and measurement tools to assess and communicate the carbon reduction potential and performance of key technologies.
  • Case study learning and sharing of experience both from technology providers, adopting companies and public bodies to advance the level of awareness and understanding in China, and provide a platform for mutual learning and potential collaboration.
  • Leadership by sector in reporting and benchmarking on its own carbon performance. The ICT sector can take a leadership role both in showing how it is applying its own technologies but also in developing and demonstrating world-class corporate processes in target setting, performance management and reporting.
  • Developing training and capacity building for key personnel within both technology providing companies and technology using companies to understand and implement low carbon ICT solutions.

The background paper supported discussion at the 2010 Summit on China’s ICT and Low Carbon Economy Development organised by the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, held in Beijing on 17th December 2010.




Simon Zadek addressed the summit in a keynote presentation introducing ICT and Low Carbon Growth in China following opening speeches by Ministerial officials. Other keynote speakers include the Chinese Presidents of Intel, HP, Lenovo and Nokia.View the bilingual presentation below.

Jon Kornik also presented the paper for discussion at a panel session addressing how ICT can support China’s low carbon economy development and energy efficiency in China’s 12th five-year plan. Jon Kornik formed the panel along with: Wang Yi, Deputy Director, Institute of Policy and Management, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Wu Changhua, China Director, the Climate Group; Jiang Jiaqi, China Head, US Information Technology Office; Wen Zongguo, Director, China Institute of Circular Economy, Tsinghua University; Li Jin, Vice President of Inspur (Beijing) Group; and Peng Jun, Department of “Green Initiative”, China Mobile.

Jon’s presentation on the ‘ICT Enablement of Low Carbon Cities’ is available to download (PDF) or view it below.

The report will be further developed following the event, drawing insights from the discussions provoked amongst policy makers, business leaders, and experts from ICT industry. It was produced with the support and input of DESC members including Intel, HP, Lenovo and Nokia. This work builds on an earlier study: The ICT Contribution to Low Carbon Development in China, prepared by the same team, and also available in simplified chinese. This initial discussion paper was presented at the World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘Summer Davos’ held in Tianjin, China.

Comments on the paper are welcome and should be sent to Simon Zadek at Simon[at]zadek.net.


Further resources in this area:


This research draws on valuable existing work including the Smart 2020 work by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative and the Climate Group in 2009 which developed an analysis of the global dimensions of the ICT contribution to low carbon growth. Other key institutions include the Development Research Center (DRC), Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Committee, the Program of Energy and Climate Economics at Renmin University, the UN Development Program, WWF and McKinsey & Company.

Advancing Sustainable Competitiveness of Chinese Corporations, in partnership with DRC – focuses on placing sustainability pracices in the competitiveness of Chinese businesses in global markets, in particular strategic options for business and public policty. A second paper explored the role of Chinese business in Africa. This work contributed to China’s Sustainable Trade Strategy – a multi-agency policy initiative to establish the basis for a long-term, sustainable trade strategy for China.

In association with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Corporate Responsibility in African Development: Insights from an Emerging Dialogue looks at the role of Chinese businesses in advancing effective natural resource governance in Africa. Focus on exploring the role of ‘CSR’ in improving business practices, and the potential for Chinese business to engage in collaborative initiatives advancing relevant sustainability standards.

The South African Renewables Initiative (SARi) started in early 2010 by the South African government to determine whether and how South Africa’s renewables ambitions could be substantially increased as part of its broader industrial and economic strategy. An updated briefing paper was recently published by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) and presented for several discussions at side events to COP16. Simon Zadek is team leader on behalf of the South African Government.

From Climate Finance to Financing Green Growth outlines the benefits of green growth and the importance of developing the right policies to support a transition towards the low carbon economy. It assesses the financing needs of green growth in developing countries, the role of the financing described by the UN High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change (AGF) and how the climate finance systems should develop over the next decade.

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