“The widely reported flattening of China’s emissions while economic growth continued apace was misleading. Emissions had flattened because of the slowed economy.”
DAVOS — Chinese President Xi Jinping galvanised supporters of the climate-change fight last year when he told an audience at the World Economic Forum that the effort “is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”
This week, as they gather again in Davos for the annual global gabfest, world leaders continue to see China as a major force in that fight.
Yet new figures show a complicating development: China’s emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases may be rising again.
China — which already emits more carbon from burning fossil fuels than the United States and Europe combined — saw electricity use jump last year as its economy accelerated.
Much of the extra demand was met by burning more coal, a particularly dirty fuel. Oil use has also risen as China has become the world’s largest car market, and so has natural gas consumption.
Experts say one annual increase doesn’t indicate China is returning to an era when its emissions grew by leaps and bounds. But the increase illustrates the challenges and compromises Beijing must juggle if it wants to stoke its economy and at the same time keep its environmental promises. […]
But China’s National Development and Reform Commission released detailed data this week showing that the country’s electricity consumption jumped 6.6 percent last year. Wind and solar energy grew quickly, but not nearly enough to meet the extra demand. Electricity generation from the burning of fossil fuels, almost entirely coal, rose 5.2 percent in China last year.
“The increase last year is a one-off — it’s not likely to be sustained — but Chinese emissions are not likely to go down, either,” said Trevor Houser, a partner at the Rhodium Group, a New York consulting group specializing in China. Rhodium estimates that China’s energy-related carbon emissions climbed last year 2.2 percent to 4.1 percent.
By contrast, China had somewhat weak industrial production in the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016 because of a financial crisis. That hurt the Chinese economy and fossil fuel consumption in both years. China still burns coal to generate three-quarters of its electricity.
see also: The Truth About China