China's carbon emissions may be lower than estimated


The IPCC has over-estimated China's emissions since 2000 by 14%, almost 3 gigatonnes of carbon since 2000, while its energy consumption has been 10% higher than realised, writes Eliza Berlage. The country is far more carbon-efficient than we ever knew.

New estimates show that for more than a decade China's greenhouse gas emissions have been overestimated by international agencies, while the country's energy consumption has been underestimated.

The research, published today in Nature, shows that from 2000 to 2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its culmulative emissions, meaning that its true emissions may have been around 14% lower than calculated.

Meanwhile, with a population of almost 1.4 billion, China's energy consumption grew 10% faster during 2000-12 than reported by its national statistics.

As the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China's recent pledge to peak its emissions by 2030 has been praised as responsible leadership on the climate issue, but its faster-than-expected energy consumption growth means meeting this target may present an even bigger challenge.

The researchers, led by Dabo Guan, of UEA's School of International Development, used independently assessed data on the amount of fuel burned, and new measurements of emissions factors to re-evaluate emissions of two major sources of China's carbon dioxide emissions - the burning of fossil fuels and cement production - from 1950-2013.

Guan said the new estimates were compiled by considering fuel quality when establishing emissions inventories - something that had previously been overlooked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and most international data sources.

"While China is the largest coal consumer in the world, it burns much lower-quality coal, such as brown coal, which has a lower heat value and carbon content compared to the coal burned in the US and Europe", said Guan.

Counting coal

According to the paper, "We find that total energy consumption in China was 10 per cent higher in 2000-2012 than the value reported by China's national statistics, that emission factors for Chinese coal are on average 40 per cent lower than the default values recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and that emissions from China's cement production are 45 per cent less than recent estimates."

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.

Air polluting stacks image via Shutterstock.