China at Risk of Missing 2025 Climate Targets, Needs Steep CO2 Cuts

China is at risk of missing key climate targets for 2025 and needs to cut fossil fuel use and maintain record renewable energy investment to get back on track, a study published on Feb 22 shows. The country is the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter.
Beijing has relied heavily on coal and oil to fuel the nation’s economy during the pandemic and drive its recovery afterwards. But the result has been a large spike in emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2).
A surge in coal power plant approvals and construction has added to the concerns.
China set a series of climate targets as part of its 14th five-year plan that runs from 2021 to 2025, including cutting carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of economic output) by 18 per cent from the 2020 level during this period.
Achieving this target would mean CO2 emissions falling between 4 per cent and 6 per cent by 2025 from 2023 levels, according to the analysis by Mr Lauri Myllyvirta, Helsinki-based lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea) and senior fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute. Crea is a research organisation registered in Finland and has offices across Asia and Europe.
Yet China’s energy sector CO2 emissions increased 5.2 per cent in 2023, said the analysis, published by Carbon Brief, a British website specialising in the science and policy of climate change.
China’s energy and climate policies are being watched closely.
The nation emits nearly a third of the world’s CO2 emissions, and how it manages the transition to a clean-energy economy has lessons for all nations and the pace of global climate change.
The study is based on official figures and commercial data. It shows that rapid growth in electricity demand and below-average rainfall boosted demand for coal power in 2023 in China, while the rebound from the government’s zero-Covid policy boosted demand for oil.
The lack of rain for several years cut hydropower output in parts of the country, leading to greater reliance on coal power. Also, some provinces regarded building coal power plants as a way to bolster economic growth and energy security.
China has the world’s largest coal power plant fleet and burning coal is the single largest source of CO2 emissions from human activity.
“China’s CO2 emissions have now increased by 12 per cent between 2020 and 2023, after a highly energy- and carbon-intensive response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Myllyvirta.
He said that in addition to carbon intensity, China is also at risk of missing all of its other key climate goals for 2025, including pledges to strictly limit coal demand growth and strictly control new coal power capacity, as well as targets for energy intensity and the share of renewables in energy demand growth.
If China is to hit these targets, most of which are part of its pledge under the United Nations’ 2015 Paris climate agreement, there is a greater likelihood that China’s CO2 emissions will need to peak before 2025, far earlier than its target of peaking “before 2030”, Mr Myllyvirta said.
And that presents a huge challenge. The main drivers of the emissions increase in 2023 were coal-fired power and oil consumption, which increased by 6 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively.
China is rapidly expanding its coal power plant fleet.
Since the beginning of 2022, a total of 218 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power plants have been permitted. About 90GW of this capacity had already started construction by the end of 2023, said the analysis. Coal accounts for about 60 per cent of China’s electricity generation.
Despite President Xi Jinping’s pledge to strictly control coal consumption and new coal power projects, both have accelerated sharply, the analysis noted. This challenges his assurance to reduce coal consumption during the 2026 to 2030 period and for the nation to reach net-zero emissions by 2060.
The good news is that if China can maintain its record-breaking deployment of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, this should help it achieve most of its climate targets, Mr Myllyvirta said.
Over the past two years, renewable energy investment has also boomed in China. As more renewables are added, this is expected to eat into coal’s share of power generation.
In 2023 alone, it added 301GW of renewables, mainly wind and solar, accounting for around 59 per cent of the world’s total renewable capacity additions that year, according to S&P Global, citing China’s National Energy Administration and the International Energy Agency.
“This boom puts most of the targets still in reach, especially if energy demand growth returns to the pre-Covid-19 rates,” said Mr Myllyvirta.
Greater deployment of green energy, battery storage, power grid reforms and strictly enforcing coal consumption limits would all help China cut emissions, he added.

About Parvin Faghfouri Azar

Check Also

Kazakhstan Vows to Compensate for Exceeding OPEC+ Quota

Kazakhstan exceeded its oil production quota under the OPEC+ deal by 131,000 barrels per day …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *