(Bloomberg) -- China set a slightly more ambitious target for reducing the energy needed for economic growth this year.

The country is aiming to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 2.5% in 2024, according to a copy of the National Development and Reform Commission work report seen by Bloomberg News. Beijing missed its 2% target last year after energy consumption growth outpaced GDP expansion for the first time in two decades. 

“As the economy continues to recover and grow and the service sector resumes its normal pace of growth, a bigger drop can be expected in energy consumption per unit of GDP,” the NDRC said in the report. “However, energy use in industry and homes will inevitably grow and result in an increase in energy consumption.”

The so-called intensity target and a similar goal of reducing carbon emissions needed for economic growth are the two main energy and climate tasks the government set for itself in its current five-year plan, which runs from 2021 to 2025. It’s seeking to reduce energy intensity by 13.5% over that period, and emissions intensity by 18%.

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China is falling short in both metrics, indicating it will need sharp reductions by 2025 in order to meet the targets, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a nonprofit focused on air pollution.

The energy intensity metric has also been watered down to a degree after a 2022 rule change that no longer counts the consumption of renewables nor any energy source used as a feedstock, such as coal converted into chemicals.

The target will disappoint climate activists, who had hoped for more environmental ambition this year after such efforts had taken a back seat to energy security thanks to domestic power shortages and global energy inflation in 2021 and 2022. ANZ Group Holdings Ltd. said last week it expected an aggressive 4% cut to the intensity target.

(Updates with quote from work report in third paragraph.)

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