We’ve put together a brief summary/snapshot of how each country sits in the global picture, and on a national scale.
This is a China GHG emissions summary guide.
Summary – Greenhouse Gas Emissions In China
Right now, the US leads the world in cumulative CO2 emissions throughout history, with China in second
China currently leads the world for annual CO2 emissions. On latest figures, China was responsible for about 27.6% of total global CO2 emissions in 2017 – roughly double that of the US
Because of the size of the population, China’s per capita CO2 emissions sit at around 7.36 tonnes per person, compared to other countries such as the US at 16.44, and Australia at 16.5
Coal is the leading emission fuel source in China by a very large margin – coal makes up around 70% of total emissions. Oil is second.
The industrial sector is China’s primary coal consumer. Manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction collectively made up 67.9 percent of China’s energy use and 54.2 percent of China’s coal use in 2015
Power production activities were responsible for 41.8 percent of coal consumption in China
Construction-related activities are among the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions in China – particularly the production of cement and steel
Over 72 percent of the electrical power generated in China in 2015 came from coal-powered plants
Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases collectively account for nearly 20 percent of China’s total emissions
China is responsible for almost 20% of both global Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions – more than several other major countries combined
Agriculture is the main sector responsible for Methane emissions – especially from rice crops/rice cultivation
Agriculture and the energy sector are the main industries responsible for nitrous oxide emissions
Since the year 2000, China has seen a huge increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions annually, and also coal use (in line with industrial and economic growth)
China is already the leading investor in renewable energy in the world – leading to a growing installed capacity for renewable energy (note though that installed capacity is different to the amount of electricity from renewable sources actually being used by end users)
China is also one of the largest users of natural gas in the world (behind the US and Russia)
But, China’s installed capacity of coal is not expected to peak before 2025
In addition to this peaking of coal installed capacity, the transition for China from coal to natural gas to renewables still has many hurdles and challenges (despite their installed capacity for renewable energy)
In the short term, China still relies heavily on coal power plants
In the long term, the effectiveness of China’s reforms (plus many other factors) will determine how well they are able to transition over from coal, to renewable and cleaner energy, and this will also determine whether greenhouse gas emissions begin to decrease (along with how and when)
*Note that future forecasts for what a country may do and their future emissions are a guide only and in reality are very hard to get accurate due to the number of variables at play. Some variables can also have a much larger impact than others – so one variable can change forecasts a lot.
Cumulative C02 Emissions
The countries that lead in terms of total sum of C02 emissions since 1751 and up to 2014, measured in millions of tonnes, are:
- United States – 376,212.65 (Mt)
- China – 174,874.89 (Mt)
- Germany – 86,536.42 (Mt)
- United Kingdom – 75,237.98 (Mt)
- India – 41,784.24 (Mt)
Annual C02 Emissions
The countries that lead in terms of total sum of C02 emissions per year in 2016, measured in millions of tonnes, are:
- China – 10,283.51 (Mt)
- US – 5,565.49 (Mt)
- EU-28 – a mix of european countries (Germany features high on the list)
- India – 2,236.55 (Mt)
- Russia – 1,669.6 (Mt)
- Japan – 1266.6 (Mt)
In 2014, the global contribution to C02 emissions was:
- China – 30%
- Other – 30%
- United States – 15%
- EU-28 – 9%
- India – 7%
- Russia – 5%
- Japan – 4%
Per Capita C02 Emissions
The countries with the highest per capita C02 emissions (C02 emissions per person in the population), measured in tonnes per person per year, in 2016, are:
- Qatar – 47.83 (tonnes per person per year)
- Trinidad & Tobago – 30.06
- Kuwait – 25.81
- United Arab Emirates – 25.79
- Bahrain – 24.51
- Brunei – 23.7
- Saudi Arabia – 19.66
- New Caledonia – 18.2
- Australia – 16.5
- Luxembourg – 16.47
- United States – 16.44
- …Other Countries Between the US and China
- China – 7.36
C02 Emissions By Fuel Source
China had 10.2 Gigatonnes of C02 Emissions in 2016. The breakdown by fuel source was:
- Coal – 7.17Gt C02
- Oil – 1.38Gt C02
- Gas – 0.395Gt C02
- Cement – 1.2Gt C02
- Gas Flaring – 0Gt C02
Coal has constituted an average of 69.9 percent of China’s energy consumption between 1985 and 2016.
As of 2016, China still consumes more coal that the rest of the world combined.
Roughly 70 percent of China’s CO2 emissions – which is more than those from all European, African, and Latin American countries combined – results from coal consumption. An additional 14 percent of its CO2 emissions come from oil
C02 Emissions By Sector/Industry
The power sector, the industrial sector, construction (particularly steel and cement production), and transport, are all responsible for a large part of China’s CO2 emissions.
- The industrial sector is China’s primary coal consumer.
- Manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction collectively made up 67.9 percent of China’s energy use and 54.2 percent of China’s coal use in 2015
- Power production activities were responsible for 41.8 percent of coal consumption.
- Construction-related activities are among the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions – particularly the production of cement and steel
- Between 2011 and 2013, more cement was consumed in China than what was used across the entire US over the course of the 20th century
- … cement alone accounted for 11 percent of China’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2016
- China manufactures half of the world’s steel
- … Some estimates peg steel processing as the source of more than 10 percent of China’s CO2 emissions
- Most of these materials are consumed within China, but in 2017, around 25 percent of the cement and 9 percent of the steel produced in China was exported
- Motor vehicles represent another major source of emissions in China
Household C02 Emissions
Coal, natural gas and LPG are all responsible for household power related emissions.
- Over 72 percent of the electrical power generated in China in 2015 came from coal-powered plants, making coal a primary contributor to household CO2 emissions
- In 2015, urban household CO2 emissions in China predominantly resulted from natural gas (33.2 percent) and liquefied petroleum gas (26.1 percent)
- In contrast, coal contributes over 65 percent of China’s rural household emissions
Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Methane & Nitrous Oxide
China is also a notable major methane and nitrous oxide GHG emitter.
Agriculture in particular is an industry responsible in large part for methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
- Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases collectively account for nearly 20 percent of the country’s total emissions
- China was responsible for 18.5 percent of global methane emissions (1.7 billion tons) and 18.5 percent of N2O emissions (537 million tons) in 2016. On both fronts, China’s emissions surpassed those of India, France, Germany and Russia combined.
- CH4 is mainly produced by transporting and distributing energy sources, raising livestock, and managing wastewater and landfills. In 2016, 42.9 percent of China’s CH4 emissions came from its energy sector, such as coal mining and the transportation of gases. An additional 38.2 percent resulted from agricultural activities.
- China’s agriculture-related emissions are largely a byproduct of rice cultivation, which made up 55 percent of its agricultural methane emissions in 2016
- Compared to the US, as the world’s largest producer of beef, most of the agricultural methane released in the US comes from livestock instead.
- Overall, China’s non CO2 greenhouse gas breakdown is Agriculture 40.8%, Energy 31.2%, Waste 13.2%, Industrial Processes 12.7%, & Indirect & Other 2%
- The agricultural and energy sectors are also the primary sources of N2O emissions. Nitrous oxide is mainly a consequence of agricultural soil management, such as fertilizer, as well as other industrial activities.
- The agricultural industry is the leading emitter of N2O in China, making up 73.7 percent of its emissions.
Current Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trend In China
China’s annual CO2 emissions have very clearly increased a significant amount over the last few years.
In the year 2000, China had:
- 3.4 Giga tonnes of C02 emissions – which was 13.9% of global C02 emissions
- 2.4 Gt came from coal, 0.649 from oil, 0.0598 from gas, 0.297 from cement, and 0 from gas flaring
In the year 2016, China had:
- 10.2 Gigatonnes of C02 Emissions – which was 29.2% of global C02 emissions
- Coal was responsible for 7.17Gt, Oil 1.38Gt, Gas 0.395Gt, Cement 1.2Gt and 0 from Gas Flaring
In the year 2017, China:
- Was responsible for 27.6 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions
China’s reliance on coal for it’s economic development in the recent past is evident here.
China’s Recent Efforts To Reduce Coal Consumption & Emissions
Just some of the efforts by the Chinese government to reduce emissions include but aren’t limited to:
- [China wants to decrease emissions from steel production]
- They are upgrading their power plants to produce more energy with less coal [and surpass the US in this regard]
- It has introduced carbon capture and storage (CCS)
- [In 2017, it introduced a nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) that put a “price” on CO2]
- In 2017 … electric or gas heaters were subsidised for installation in 3 million homes throughout villages and cities. The use of coal-fired stoves was also banned
- The Chinese government has proposed fuel standards for new cars, motorcycles and mopeds
- As of 2017, there were 1.23 million Electric Vehicles in use in China, more than in Europe and the US, at 820,000 and 760,000 respectively
- The Chinese government aims to have 5 million electric cars on the roads by 2020.
China’s Transition From Coal, To Natural Gas & Renewables
It appears China is placing greater emphasis on moving to a greater use of natural gas, as well as increased capacity for nuclear and renewable energy use (note that actual use is different to installed capacity)
China is also investing heavily in renewable energy installed capacity for the future (or at least making pledges for the future):
- Natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon during the combustion process
- China is increasing it’s use of natural gas
- As of 2017, China was the world’s third largest consumer of natural gas after the US and Russia. China is also the third largest purchaser of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the US
- In order to boost alternative energy usage, Beijing pledged to install “340 gigawatts (GW) of hydropower capacity, 210 GW of wind and 110 GW of solar by 2020.”
- China plans a 16.5 percent annual increase in nuclear power capacity between 2015 and 2020
- At present, China leads the world in terms of wind and solar power capacity
- As of 2017, renewables were generating 5.3% of China’s electricity supply
- China is already the leading investor in renewable energy in the world, planning to invest another $360 billion by 2020
- China says it will be the world’s biggest investor in renewables and has pledged $400 billion by 2030.
China’s Difficulties, Complexities and Challenges In Making Transition To Cleaner Energy
Read more about some of the difficulties, complexities and challenges China faces in moving away from coal and towards other energy sources like natural gas, renewables and cleaner energy in the future.
Future Forecast For Greenhouse Gas Emissions In China
Estimates for future greenhouse gas emissions, and particularly carbon dioxide emissions, are estimates only.
Accurate forecasts are close to impossible due to factors such as future economic activity, price of fossil fuels and other energy sources, what happens in the electricity and transport industries, government policy developments, whether there are improvements in energy efficiency, and so on.
But, some indicators to be aware of might include:
- The Chinese government announced in March 2018 that it had achieved its Copenhagen emission reduction targets for 2020, which included reducing carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent and raising the share of non-fossil fuel energy sources to 15 percent
- China is expected to surpass the 15 percent target set in the Copenhagen Accord
- It is estimated that China will need to increase its target for non-fossil fuel consumption from its current target of 15 percent to 26 percent by 2020 to meet Paris Agreement targets
- Forecasts from the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and the Energy Development Strategy Action Plan (2014-2020) say renewable energies are to compose 34 percent of installed generating capacity in China’s power sector