China’s CO2 emissions see fall since post-lockdown surge

Extracts from Carbon Brief:

Clean energy and electric vehicles pick up pace

The effect of China’s new policies and policy expectations is showing clearly in investment in the flagship low-carbon technologies solar, nuclear, wind and electric vehicles. Accelerated deployment of these technologies will be a key component of delivering China’s carbon goals.

Shortcomings of China's energy storage technology ...

The Figure 1 below shows that some 26 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 16GW of wind were installed in the first nine months of the year, up 37% and 33% on a year earlier, based on figures from the National Energy Administration that tend to be incomplete, but indicate the trend. Investment in solar power increased 27% and nuclear by 52%.

Increases in capacity additions for wind and solar are in part driven by grid connection deadlines, after which projects will receive lower electricity tariffs.

This year, 55–65GW of solar and 50GW of wind are expected in total, in line with industry expectations that well over 100GW per year will be needed to meet climate targets. China’s target for 25% of its total energy consumption in 2030 to come from non-fossil sources, in particular, requires accelerating wind and solar installations.

China’s production of electric vehicles is also surging, with output increasing 160% year-on-year in the first 10 months of 2021 and a record 2.7m vehicles produced. This represents a record market share of 13% of all vehicles produced in 2021 to date, increasing to 17% in October. Over the past 12 months, a record-breaking number of more than 3 million electric vehicles was produced.

Figure 1 – Power generating capacity additions

First nine months of the year (Gigawatts)

Emissions continue to fall

The year-on-year decline in emissions from fossil fuels and cement is a marked turnaround from the approximately 9% increase in the first half of the year, when the Chinese economy surged back from the coronavirus pandemic on a wave of stimulus spending.

Moreover, the declining trend in the third quarter steepened into September – the first month during which monthly emissions returned to 2019 levels – and looks set to deepen further in October, based on preliminary data.

This analysis is based on official figures for the domestic production, import and export of fossil fuels and cement, as well as commercial data on changes in stocks of stored fuel. In the case of coal and natural gas, the growth rates are adjusted to match officially reported quarterly growth rates, when available.

It is the latest in a series of quarterly Carbon Brief updates, with the previous one having reported early signs of China’s emissions growth cooling in the second quarter of 2021.

Looking ahead, the drop in emissions could mark a turning point and an early peak in China’s emissions total, years ahead of its target to peak before 2030.

Although coal consumption is in a declining trend, demand in the third quarter was still some 2% higher than a year earlier, with the consumption of coking coal having fallen 8% and thermal coal increasing 3%, propelled by power generation.

Despite the small increase from coal, China’s quarterly CO2 emissions overall fell regardless, due to cement output falling by 8% and oil consumption by 10% compared with the same period last year.

The slowdown in China’s emissions became steeper during the third quarter, with CO2 output falling an estimated 2.3% in September. 

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SOURCE: Carbon Brief, 25-11-2021.