After claiming big gains in energy savings last year, China has sharply lowered its conservation target for 2015, signaling greater concern about economic growth.

As smog smothers its major cities, China has been struggling to control its “energy intensity,” the amount of energy consumed to produce each unit of gross domestic product (GDP).

Although the volume of China’s energy use keeps expanding along with the economy, the intensity index is a measure of efficiency and waste in creating economic growth.

And while China has regularly reported annual drops in its energy intensity, its largely coal-fired economy still lags behind the efficiency of other countries in both the industrialized and developing worlds.

Shanghai city smog; Photo by Doug Tsuruoka
Shanghai city smog; Photo by Doug Tsuruoka

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