China carbon emissions could peak by 2025-2030
China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, could peak in emissions by 2030 or earlier, says a study from U.S. researchers who foresee Chinese demand for appliances, buildings and much industry reaching "saturation" around then.
The study by energy and emissions experts at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California adds to a growing body of studies that say China could reach its maximum output of carbon dioxide (CO2) within two decades.
That matters for more than China. Its emissions path will be crucial to determining whether the world can restrict total greenhouse gas emissions to levels less likely to trigger dangerous climate change, such as more intense droughts, floods and storms that threaten crops and economic growth.
"Once nearly every household owns a refrigerator, a washing machine, air conditioners and other appliances, and once housing area per-capita has stabilized, per-household electricity growth will slow," said co-author Mark Levine in a statement.
China, with 1.34 billion people, already emits a quarter of the world's CO2. This is more than the United States, historically the world's top emitter of the main greenhouse gas from human activity fuelling climate change.
It overtook the United States several years ago. India is the third top carbon polluter.
How soon China's emissions peak and at what levels will depend on how vigorously the government pursues cleaner growth policies, especially moving energy from coal to nuclear, hydro-power and renewable energy, said the researchers.
China generates most of its electricity using coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, but is already investing heavily in cleaner energy.
The researchers say China can achieve a peak earlier and lower than other studies have suggested, in part because by about 2030, the country's demand for many emissions-intensive goods and industries will reach a plateau, a factor they say those studies overlook. Such goods include steel and cement.
Photo shows pollution over an industrial area of Huaxi village, at Jiangsu province December 3, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria