By Wan Xu and David Stanway
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's carbon intensity, or its emissions relative to economic output, fell more than 3.5 percent in 2012, outperforming its average annual target, China's chief climate change official said on Thursday.
China aims to cut carbon intensity by 17 percent during the 2011-2015 period, which means an annual average target of around 3.5 percent. Intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of gross domestic product.
"The situation last year was relatively good. Based on a preliminary estimate, China could achieve a more than 3.5 percent fall in carbon intensity," said Su Wei, director general of climate change department of National Development and Reform Commission.
Cutting carbon intensity allows China to meet international demands for it to curb emissions and also keep its priority that development must come first while many Chinese still live in poverty.
The government is currently drawing up a national plan on climate change till 2020, which is expected to be finalized soon, Su said.
China recently published a new industrial carbon emissions plan. Steel, nonferrous metals and petrochemical sectors are required to cut CO2 intensity by 18 percent by 2015 compared with the 2010 level.
By 2020, China aims to cut its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent versus the 2005 level, a target that is stimulating a sharp increase in investment demand in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Its efforts to control emissions are also paving the way for creation of a carbon market, which requires accurate measurements of the carbon emitted.
China's biggest listed steelmaker, Baoshan Iron and Steel, is among the industrial companies that must participate in a pilot carbon trading scheme in Shanghai, the local government said last month.
China will need 1.24 trillion yuan ($199.2 billion) in energy conservation investments in 2011-2015, an increase of 50 percent from the level in 2006-2010, according to a research report released by Tsinghua University on Thursday.
The investment in China's renewable energy sector in 2011-2015 will increase 37.5 percent to 1.8 trillion yuan, the report showed. ($1 = 6.2262 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Wan Xu and David Standway; editing by Jane Baird)