china emissions

China still not at peak emissions despite recent declines, study finds

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China’s greenhouse gas emissions have been in decline since last year but the country’s peak is still expected to be some way off, researchers have said.

The Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) carried out a survey of 26 Chinese energy sector analysts and experts.

It found that the country’s continued rise in energy consumption effectively cancelled out attempts to decarbonise its economy and energy infrastructure.

Resolving this issue requires a combination of increased energy efficiency measures, a shift in the economic growth model, or an even larger scale of clean energy investment, CREA said.

For non-CO2 greenhouse gases, there are no official quantitative targets or regular emissions reporting that would allow the assessment of trends or progress.

Nevertheless, the assessment also found that China was on track in areas such as clean energy investments, electrification, building sector emissions, and electric vehicle sales.

Its clean energy investments, in particular, have continued to grow rapidly and are approaching the scale projected in scenarios needed to keep the world below 1.5°C scenarios.

The country’s efforts to decarbonise will have a sizable impact on the global fight to tackle climate change as its emissions are more than twice as high as those of the US, which is the next highest emitter.

China's emissions and fossil fuel consumption have been broadly falling since the summer of 2021, but it remains off track with regards to investments in coal-based power and industrial capacity.

The ruling Communist Party has even been accused of promoting coal-fired power facilities in 2022 as part of efforts to revive the country’s flagging economy in the wake of ongoing lockdowns in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The experts surveyed by CREA expressed scepticism about the prospect of carbon emissions peaking before 2025 or having already peaked.

Some are even doubtful that the target of peaking before 2030 will be met. Although most of the interviewed experts believed that peaking carbon by 2030 should not be a challenge, China achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 might need a lot of work depending on the level of CO2 emissions at the peak.

“It appears that Chinese analysts and experts expect a return to the growth pattern that prevailed before mid-2021, when energy consumption and CO2 emissions experienced a sharp turnaround,” the report said.

“Chinaʼs success in meeting and exceeding its current climate targets is possibly the single most important factor in the global fight against climate change.”

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