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China distorts restrictions on greenhouse gases and dependence on coal

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As the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland approaches, the goal of keeping global warming at an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) stay in the foreground. This, experts hope, will prevent the most catastrophic changes in the climate and the global economy.

While China emits more greenhouse gases than any industrialized country in the world, Beijing’s role in reducing emissions is seen as essential to achieving this goal.

People take part in a climate march in Brussels, Belgium, ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on October 10, 2021. (Yves Herman / Reuters)

On October 27, China released a white paper titled “Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions”.

According to The Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper, the white paper describes “China’s goal of peaking emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060,” which it said would represent ” the world’s largest reduction in carbon emissions intensity and the shortest timeframe to achieve the peak carbon to carbon neutral target in global history.

Ye Min, deputy minister of ecology and environment, presented the white paper at a press conference in Beijing. He said China was on track to bring its greenhouse gas emissions under control, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Greenhouse gas emissions were effectively brought under control in 2020. China’s carbon emissions intensity [was] reduced by 18.8% compared to 2015 and lower by 48.4% than 2005, exceeding 40 to 45 [percent] promised to the international community, and fundamentally reverse the rapid growth in CO2 emissions, ”Ye said.

Ye’s selective use of statistics is very misleading. This is because the “intensity” of carbon emissions is not the same as overall carbon emissions. In fact, China’s emissions continue to grow. (CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas. Along with others, it traps atmospheric heat and raises global temperatures.)

According to The Australian Climate Council, a non-profit organization advocating for greenhouse gas reduction, emissions intensity describes only the volume of emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), not a reduction in overall emissions .

This means that with a growing economy, China can actually increase its greenhouse gas emissions even as emissions intensity decreases.

Based on data released by independent analysts, that’s exactly what China did last year.

The Climate Council noted that developed countries, including the United States, are aiming for “absolute emission reduction targets reflecting their intention to reduce their total emissions.”

In April, the The White House announced it aimed for up to 52% reduction in net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. (The US government defines net emission as “gross emissions, including all industrial activities, minus carbon sinks – natural systems that absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they release – from forestry activities and agricultural soils.” “)

In May, Lauri Myllyvirta, Senior Analyst at the Energy and Clean Air Research Center (CREA) in Helsinki, wrote that China’s CO2 emissions grew 15% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, “their fastest pace in more than a decade.”

Citing official government figures, Myllyvirta said the “CO2 surge” reflected both a post COVID-19 rebound from early 2020 shutdowns, as well as an economic recovery that had “been dominated by growth in the construction, steel and cement “.

To boast that greenhouse gas emissions have been “effectively brought under control by 2020” is very dubious.

People walk past a power station in Shanghai on December 5, 2009.

People walk past a power station in Shanghai on December 5, 2009.

According to independent researcher Rhodium Group, China was the only large economy to experience growth in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

The group, which specializes in India and China, noted that China’s estimated 1.7% increase in gas emissions for the year was lower than the average growth of 3.3% over the past year. decade. Yet this remains a “worrying sign” that the focus by the world’s largest emitter on a fossil fuel-fueled industrial recovery is at odds with its long-term goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2060 ” , said Rhodium.

In a separate analysis, Myllyvirta found that China’s carbon dioxide emissions had increased by more than 4% ”in the second half of 2020.

On the other hand, the National Bureau of Statistics of China reported that carbon intensity decreased by 1% year-on-year in 2020, Reuters reported.

Analysis in Bloomberg News, said China’s economic growth target of 6% by 2021 – a figure some believe is low given the lower baseline in 2020 – may be at odds with its plans to reduce CO2 emissions. The story was titled “China’s Dirty Recovery Will Make Fighting Climate Change More Difficult.”

“Keeping economic growth and job stability as a short-term priority will mean further growth in emissions,” Yan Qin, carbon analyst at Refinitiv Carbon, told Bloomberg.

“Higher emissions in 2021 and the years to come will raise the bar for China to peak in emissions before 2030, which will require the implementation of more stringent measures later.”

The United States has also been criticized for being the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in historical terms, while sitting on multilateral efforts to combat climate change.

Decades of efforts to reduce emissions have been thwarted, with the oil and gas industry actively sowing disinformation to undermine climate science. As noted in a recent report per National Public Radio (NPR), scientists argue that the emission reductions made over the past 15 years have not been sufficient.

China took advantage of this fact to assert that historical polluters like the United States and other European countries should shoulder a greater share of the burden of reducing emissions.

In August, former U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern said China’s plans for the 2020s were not doing enough to meet the target of capping global warming at 1.5 degree Celsius.

A truck transports coal to a coal-fired power station in Shenyang, China, September 29, 2021.

A truck transports coal to a coal-fired power station in Shenyang, China, September 29, 2021.

“The peak (carbon emissions) by 2030 in China can’t do the job, and I don’t think it represents a better effort to keep it at 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Associated Press quotes Stern as saying. “China’s planned substantial expansion of its coal fleet in its 14th Five-Year Plan is also not consistent with what is to happen.”

In February, Global Energy Monitor, a U.S. research institute, and CREA said China had launched 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity, according to Reuters news agency. reported.

This is more than three times the capacity of new factories built in the rest of the world.

China achieved a net gain of 29.8 GW (including downgrades). The rest of the world, on the other hand, reduced its coal production capacity by 17.2%.

Myllyvirta argues that coal expansion is not even necessary.

“The galloping expansion of coal-fired power is driven by the interest of power companies and local governments in maximizing capital spending, more than a real need for new capacity.” Reuters quotes it as told.

China saw its greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – including CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, F gases and sulfur hexafluoride – reach around 27% of the global total, Polygraph previously reported .info, quoting a report from May 2021 of the Rhodium group.

Between 2000 and 2018, coal accounted for around 75.5% of China’s CO2 emissions. China too represents half of global coal consumption and is the world’s largest producer of coal.

A March 2020 Report by Global Energy Monitor, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and CREA have found that China’s coal production capacity of 1,095 GW is about half of global capacity. China is also responsible for 41% of the world’s coal-fired power generation capacity under construction.

China argued that its economic development should not be hampered by environmental protections, as the United States and other developed countries have not faced such restrictions on their development paths.

The The UN warns the world could be heading for a rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, even if current commitments are met.