China's Major CO2 Emissions Seen Stalling Amid Climate Push

Putting a Lid on Emitters; China Tackles Pollution
  • Emissions tied to fossil fuels may see only slight gain: BNEF
  • Slower economic growth also helping to curb carbon emissions

China’s emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas are forecast to stall this year as the nation installs more clean energy capacity to tackle climate change.

Emissions tied directly to burning fossil fuels, the biggest source of carbon emissions, may rise only 0.24 percent in 2015 from a year earlier, the slowest pace in at least 15 years, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance preliminary estimate based on coal consumption data drawn from government customs reports, company production filings and port inventories.

The analysis assumes China’s coal use may drop this year by 0.59 percent, slightly offsetting the possibility of a marginal increase in oil and gas demand because of low prices. The small rise in emissions this year compares with growth of 1 percent in 2014.

“The economic slowdown has helped to curb carbon emissions temporarily," said Lin Boqiang, director of the Energy Economics Research Center at Xiamen University.

The Chinese government is also making its best efforts to cut greenhouse gases, he said.

Clean Energy

The world’s biggest carbon emitter is using clean energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear power to cut its reliance on coal. Chinese President Xi Jinping will join at least 130 heads of government and state, including U.S. President Barack Obama, in Paris for global climate talks beginning on Nov. 30. The aim of those talks is to reach a globally binding agreement on the climate.

China, the world’s second-biggest economy, has become a driving force for a possible deal in the French capital and has promised to cap emissions by 2030 and to cut carbon intensity by 60 percent to 65 percent from 2005 levels.

"The structural change of China’s economy is happening faster than people anticipated," said Sophie Lu, a Beijing-base analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Coal consumption in the power industry has declined as clean energy accounts for a larger share of power generation, said Lu.

China’s service industry is starting to amount to a greater percentage of economic output, rising 2.3 percentage points in the third quarter compared with the year earlier, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

Coal Production

China’s coal production fell 3.6 percent in the first 10 months from a year earlier while consumption of the fossil fuel declined 4.7 percent, according to data from the China National Coal Association.

"Peaking emissions for China before 2030 is not difficult," Lu said.

Industrial sector emissions are peaking soon and power generation emissions are actually slowing down, she said.

Power usage rose 0.7 percent in the first 10 months of the year, compared with a 3.8 percent increase from the previous year, according to data from the National Energy Administration. Electricity demand in the industrial sector fell 1 percent in the period.

China continues to hold the top position as the best developing country in which to invest in clean energy in a study by Climatescope, a research project whose partners include Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the U.K. Department for International Development.

Investment Destination

In 2014, China added 35 gigawatts of new renewable power generating capacity -- greater than all the capacity online today in sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 nations combined, excluding South Africa and Nigeria -- and attracted $89 billion in all types of new clean energy capital, the report said.

The greater use of clean energy and slowing energy demand are both helping to keep carbon emissions flat, said Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a research company.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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