Thursday, March 10, 2016

China’s Carbon Emissions May Have Peaked Already

Air pollution in Chinese cities such as Linfen has spurred the government to reduce its reliance on coal. (Credit: Sheila/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
China’s industrialized economy is transforming itself from one heavily reliant on coal and steel production to a greener one that uses less energy.  But as studies trickle in painting a picture of what that means for the climate, there is a lot of uncertainty about when China’s carbon dioxide emissions will reach their peak.  

A team of London scientists thinks it may have an answer: China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, will use less and less energy over the next decade, leading to a peak in the country’s emissions sometime between now and 2025.

But in a twist, the same researchers say there’s a chance that China’s emissions may have peaked already because of a significant drop in coal consumption last year.  If so, the country may have met its target to max out its carbon emissions nearly 15 years sooner than it expected, according to a study published this week in the journal Climate Policy[$].

Study lead author Fergus Green, a climate policy consultant at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said China’s decline in coal consumption in 2015 was so significant that the related decline in carbon dioxide emissions from coal outweighed the growth in carbon emissions from oil and gas use, which continued to grow last year.  

“We expect the broad structural forces that have caused this turnaround — both those affecting energy demand and those affecting energy supply — to continue to a greater or lesser degree over the coming decade, with the result that, if emissions do grow, that growth is likely to be slow,” Green said. “Our paper argues that peaking between now and 2025 is likely, though it is possible that 2014 was the peak.”

For 2014 not to have been the peak, emissions would need to grow over the next decade by more than they fell in 2015, he said.

Read more at China’s Carbon Emissions May Have Peaked Already

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