Rising coal consumption ends three years of stable emissions, reports Charlotte Middlehurst
China’s carbon emissions are projected to grow by 3.5% in 2017, ending a trend that has seen emissions plateau for the past three years globally, according to a new study launched at the UN climate talks in Bonn.
Although China has set ambitious targets to curb coal consumption and move toward a sustainable model of development, it continues to promote heavy industry as a means of boosting economic growth when GDP threatens to fall too fast.
The rise in China’s emissions is caused by greater coal consumption following fresh stimulus to infrastructure, concentrated in the steel and cement sectors, found the study by Global Carbon Project.
Another contributing factor was a decline in hydropower in 2017 caused by flooding and drought in southern China that required more coal power to be brought online. The country’s oil and gas sectors also grew strongly at 5% and 12%, respectively.
By the end of 2017, global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise by about 2% compared with the preceding year, with an uncertainty range between 0.8% and 3%, found the report. The uptick follows three years of relatively flat emissions.
Glen Peters, research director at CICERO in Oslo and a co-author of the research, said:
“China emits about 30% of global emissions, and so what happens in China has a huge effect on global emissions. From an equity perspective, one could argue that more pressure should be put on countries like Australia, but unless China reduces its emissions, eventually to zero, we will never meet out climate objectives.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, East Asia energy analyst for Greenpeace, warned against drawing any long term conclusions from the spike in emissions.
“China’s increased emissions are expected to be temporary as economic stimulus cools and tough air pollution policies begin to impact. Its renewable energy sector also continued to grow at an astonishing rate,” he said.
The study found that renewables have been increasing at 14% per year over the past five years.
Overall, the amount of global emissions as a promotion of GDP continues to fall, as it has been since 2007. US emissions declined 0.4% in 2017 despite Trump’s policies; while India’s emissions are projected to grow by only 2% in 2017, down from 6% over the past decade.