Saturday, May 16, 2015

It Only Took Four Months for China to Achieve a Jaw-Dropping Reduction in Carbon Emissions

Chinese coal plant pipes (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, so small decreases in its emissions seem like monumental feats when compared to other countries.  According to a new analysis, in the first four months of 2015, China’s coal use fell almost 8 percent compared to the same period last year — a reduction in emissions that’s approximately equal to the total carbon dioxide emissions of the U.K. over the same period.

The analysis, published by Greenpeace and Energydesk China, reviewed data from a number of sources, including China’s industrial output, and found that China had reduced its coal output by 6.1 percent in the first four months of 2015.  The research team calculated that the drop in coal use translates into a nearly 5 percent drop in domestic CO2 emissions.

Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst who worked on the Greenpeace report, told RTCC that the report shows that China’s industrial output and thermal power generation are falling while renewable energy sources like hydro, wind, and solar are growing fast.

She said that while some question the accuracy of the data, she has “a high degree of confidence in those statistics because in the current economic situation no government has an incentive to publish falling numbers for industrial growth.”

In 2014, China cut domestic consumption of coal by 2.9 percent, the first drop in more than a decade, with coal production also falling 2.5 percent.  China’s carbon emissions also fell last year for the first time in over a decade, dropping 2 percent in 2014 compared to 2013.

While China is rapidly pursuing clean energy technology — with solar growth that dwarfs any other country — and also closing hundreds of coal plants in response to domestic air pollution issues and a shifting fossil fuel landscape, the real reason for the dramatic fall in emissions is likely the country’s sluggish economy.  So far in 2015, China’s economy is growing slower than the government’s desired 7 percent pace — a trajectory that puts it on course to have its weakest economic year in a quarter of a century.

But while China’s economic growth may turn around, its coal use will not.  Late last year the government announced it plans to cap coal use by 2020, a necessary target to meet its global pledge of peaking greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  Reducing its use of coal, which still generates three-fourths of China’s electricity, is also a key element of China’s renewable energy target of 20 percent non-fossil fuels in “primary energy consumption by 2030.”

Read more at It Only Took Four Months for China to Achieve a Jaw-Dropping Reduction in Carbon Emissions

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