Countries around the world have been committing to ambitious measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions. New research shows they have further to go than they thought.
The Rhodium Group released an analysis today showing that China, the world’s largest emitter, saw its 2019 emission levels exceed those of all developed countries combined to reach 14 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent. That’s about 27% of the global total.
Over the past three decades, China’s emissions have more than tripled, Rhodium estimated. At the same time, global emissions reached 52 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2019, an 11.4% increase over the past decade. The estimate measures six greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane.
Those increases put the world further off track from meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims for carbon neutrality by 2050, said Kate Larsen, head of international climate policy research at the Rhodium Group.
&lldquo;The shifting dynamics of global emissions—with China surpassing the developed world for the first time—means that meeting the Paris goals will require significant and rapid action from all countries,” Larsen said in an email.
The United States followed China as the world’s second-largest emitter, with 11% of the global total. India beat out the European Union for third, with 6.6% of total emissions.
The Rhodium Group also calculated per capita emissions and found that China now registers just below average levels across the bloc of countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. China’s per capita emissions still remain well below those of the United States, which has the world’s highest rate, at 17.6 tons per person.
Larsen said China’s per capita emissions have grown &lldquo;largely as a result of higher standards of living, comparatively fossil-intensive electric power, and its role as the manufacturer of goods consumed around the world.”
That growth carries implications for how emissions in other developing countries could accelerate if they follow a similar pathway.
During a virtual climate summit last month, China reiterated its pledge to peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, a decade later than other major economies. It also said it would peak coal use in 2025 and start to phase it out the following year.
Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said high-emissions projects that don’t meet environmental standards would be halted, Bloomberg News reported (Climatewire, May 3).
But Beijing continues to finance fossil fuel projects overseas and is continuing to build out coal-fired power plants at home. It is both the world’s largest producer of renewable energy and its largest coal consumer.
&lldquo;The big test is whether these plans together suffice to peak emissions and reach the rapid rate of emissions reductions needed to meet the long-term goal of carbon neutrality before 2060,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, a lead analyst who focuses on China at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
A preliminary estimate of China’s 2020 emissions by the Rhodium Group shows that while all other major economies saw emissions drop significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, China’s emissions are estimated to have increased by 1.7%, due in part to industry-driven economic growth and an uptick in natural gas use.
The Rhodium Group provides annual estimates of economywide emissions for more than 190 countries. The latest data looks at emissions from 1990 to 2019.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.