When will China’s greenhouse gas emissions level out?

Rate of economic growth and success in slashing carbon intensity will determine if and when China meets 2030 target

More than half of power capacity installed in 2014 was renewable (Pic: Flickr/Land Rover Our Planet)

More than half of power capacity installed in 2014 was renewable (Pic: Flickr/Land Rover Our Planet)

By Gerard Wynn

China’s carbon emissions will stop rising before 2030, if the country’s rate of economic growth gradually slows, by around 0.2% a year.

That is the implication of the country’s target to gradually de-carbonise its economy, published on Tuesday.

The target was part of China’s pledge, under a prospective global climate agreement expected to be signed by all countries in Paris at the end of the year.

China’s pledge follows targets to cut emissions recently published by the United States and the European Union.

China said it would cut the carbon intensity of its economy by 60-65% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

Carbon intensity is the level of carbon emissions per unit of economic output. Calculating the implications for actual carbon emissions requires certain assumptions on economic growth.

Historical data in the figure above are from BP (CO2 emissions) and the World Bank (GDP measured in constant international dollars PPP).

Historical data in the figure above are from BP (CO2 emissions) and the World Bank (GDP measured in constant international dollars PPP).

If China’s rate of economic growth gradually slows, by 0.2 percent per year (growing by 7% in 2014, 6.8% in 2015 and so on), then its emissions will peak before 2030.

The country’s carbon emissions will peak at 11,787 million tonnes in 2028, if it cuts its carbon intensity by 60% by 2030.

Its carbon emissions will peak at 10,649 million tonnes in 2024, if it cuts its carbon intensity by 65% by 2030.

These calculations assume a steady annual decrease in carbon intensity.

Of course, if the country’s economy grows more slowly or quickly, then its carbon emissions will peak sooner or later.

China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. For the world to reach an international target of limiting global average warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, China’s emissions should peak before 2030, analysts say.

The country’s emissions should then fall; that may be the difficult part, given it has built a new fleet of coal-fired power plants over the past 15 years, which are still a long way from retirement.

For more energy analysis and insight from Gerard Wynn visit his Energy and Carbon Blog

 

Read more on: China | Comment & Analysis