Institutional Drivers for Deciding on Sustainable Technologies in China

Led by China’s National 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2011), which calls for energy efficiency, reduction of carbon emissions and development of renewable energy sources, Chinese local governments hit the road towards a low carbon future. In 2007, Shenyang city invested 10 billion yuan in geothermal heat pump (GHP) projects becoming a national leader in GHP implementation.

This research aimed to explain the logic behind decision-making on the GHP pilot project in Shenyang between 2006-2016 and evaluate its outcomes and impact on the city’s sustainable development. It was argued that according to the internal logic of China’s political economy, the geothermal heat pump pilot project in Shenyang was a necessary and sufficient contribution to the city’s sustainable development.

Interviews with stakeholders and policy document analysis showed that first, the CCP has made sustainability integral to its planning regime. Second, environmental planning targets are a crucial tool for the central government to enforce sustainable agendas within local authorities mainly focused on economic growth. Finally, GHP, through its concrete manifestation in Shenyang, had a demonstration effect and caused a real improvement in life quality.


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