Science in China: News & features

China’s carbon dioxide emissions rose 9% higher than pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter

China’s CO2 emissions responsible for global warming rose 9% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, driven by economic recovery and increases in steel and cement production, according to a study unveiled Thursday.

In the 12 months since China began relaxing the lockdown, total CO2 emissions have exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 7%, setting the fastest growth rate since 2012, said Lauri Myllyvirta, principal analyst at the Helsinki-based Center for Energy and Clean Air Research (CREA).

China has massively increased its renewable energy capacity. However, until 2030, carbon emissions are expected to increase. The country is expected to become ‘carbon-neutral’ by 2060.

About 70% of the CO2 increase in the first quarter is due to increased coal consumption. Chinese coal production increased by 16% year on year in the first three months.

According to Chinese government reports, China will cut coal consumption only after 2025.

Earlier this month, a study by think-tank Rhodium Group showed that China’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of the entire Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the first time. Per capita emissions were also close to OECD levels.

Only Britain and the United States recorded comparable levels with “the extreme carbon intensity of China’s economic model,” Myllyvirta added – and that was more than a century ago when renewable energy was largely unavailable.

Chinese targets outlined in the five-year plan suggest that these values could increase by another 5 to 10 percent by 2025.

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