Carbon emissions in China

Anthropogenic climate change driven by human induced carbon emissions, is one of the most serious challenges facing human development. China is currently the world largest developing country, top primary energy consumer and carbon emitter. The nation releases one quarter of the global total (9.2 Gt CO2 in 2013), 1.5 times that from US. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the growth in global carbon emission between 2010 and 2012 occurred in China. Without mitigation, China’s emissions could rise by more than 50% in the next 15 years. Given the magnitude and growth rate of China’s carbon emissions, the country has become a critical partner in developing policy approaches to reducing global CO2 emissions. Supported by a 5-year joint research programme among more than 100 research institutes globally to investigate carbon emissions in China (Jiao and Stone, 2011), this study presents a systematically evaluation of China’s carbon emission from fossil fuel combustion and cement manufacturing process. The main contributions of the study are listed as: 1). This study was conducted with 4243 mine investigation and 602 site experiments to comprehensively test the qualities of different fuels in China. For the first time the “Measurable, reportable, verifiable” carbon emission factors and total carbon emission inventories are reported for nation, provinces, cities and invidual sectors. 2). The feature, pattern and driving forces of China’s carbon emissions are analyzied. Results show that China’s carbon emissions are mainly the result of fossil fuel combustion (90%) and cement production (10%). Manufacturing and power generation are the major sectors contributing to total carbon emissions, together these sectors accounted for 85% of China’s total carbon emissions. The results also uncovered significant differences of sectoral emission intensity among provinces, implying a huge disparity of technology level among regions. Less developed provinces with much higher energy intensive technologies, contribute to most of national emission increment since 2000s and cause the whole country’s economic structure to become carbon intensive. 3).The study explored China’s emission embodied in international trade: the carbon footprints. By analyzing the carbon footprints by nations, Chinese trade represents 34% of all emissions embodied in trade, and these traded emissions are growing each year. About twenty-five percent of China’s carbon footprints are caused by manufacturing products that are consumed abroad. These, so-called virtual emissions, which are “embodied” in international trade, lead to China having the world’s most unbalanced virtual emissions trade with its emissions associated with exports being 8 times higher than its emissions associated with imports. This study provides a basic understanding of China’s carbon emissions and further proposes a basis to support global mitigation efforts and low-carbon development.

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Chinese Academy of Sciences


Yong Geng, Dabo Guan

Expected graduation


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