China could hit emissions peak by 2025 – study

Lower economic growth, tighter climate regulations and a decline in heavy industry primed to slow carbon growth

Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama agreed to take joint action on climate change (Pic: Flickr/U.S. Embassy The Hague)

Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama agreed to take joint action on climate change
(Pic: Flickr/U.S. Embassy The Hague)

By Ed King

China’s greenhouse gas emissions could peak by 2025, well ahead of a government decreed deadline of 2030, according to researchers in the UK.

This would boost hopes of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming beyond 2C above pre industrial levels, says the study, released by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

LSE policy analyst Fergus Green, who co-authored the study with Lord Stern, told RTCC projected lower levels of Chinese economic growth this decade would likely lead to a drop in emissions.

“One big shift is the rate of GDP growth in China which for first decade of this century averaged over 10%… that has now declined to little over 7%,” he said.

Green said the projected drop in emissions had not been predicted by experts 1-2 years ago, describing it as “really quite abrupt”.

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Regulations to address air pollution, boost the share of renewables and ensure industry adopted more efficient practices were also contributing factors, he added.

“Air pollution has really shot to the top of public attention. The leadership in China have placed a really strong emphasis on tackling it, and – that’s having an effect in terms of energy supply.”

News that China’s emissions could fall faster than expected will be welcomed by governments working on plans for a UN climate deal, set to be agreed later this year in Paris.

As the world’s largest emitter of carbon pollution the country has a pivotal role to play in determining whether efforts to limit warming succeed.

Last November president Xi Jinping announced the country would target an emissions peak by 2030, building on its 2009 voluntary target to cut the carbon intensity of GDP 40-45% by 2020.

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Emissions could peak ahead of 2025, said Green, but warned that could depend on how ambitious the next Five Year Plan – due out in 2016 – was in terms of energy use.

The mooted possibility of higher taxes on coal as a result of air pollution could also hasten its decline, he added.

Based on new research, this latest paper echoes findings from the Beijing-based Energy Resources Institute (ERI) in July 2013, which modelled an emissions peak in 2025.

To meet what ERI called an “enhanced low carbon scenario” by 2050 renewables would account for 48% of power generation, with 1040GW of solar and 930GW of wind.

According to recent figures from China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), installed solar capacity hit 30GW in 2014, a rise of over 60%.

In contrast coal generation capacity grew by 5.9%.

Analysis from Greenpeace suggests coal use in the first four months of 2015 fell 8% on the same period in 2014.

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