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China May Have Reached Its Paris Climate Goal 17 Years Early – But There’s A Catch


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


A thermal power plant in Hebei, China. L.F/Shutterstock

A study claims that China may have reached its carbon goals as set in the Paris climate agreement 17 years early – although it’s not all good news, as emissions seem to be increasing again.

The study, published last month in Nature Geoscience, suggests that China’s emissions peaked at 9.53 gigatons of CO2 in 2013. Every year since the emissions decreased, ending at 9.2 gigatons of CO2 in 2016, the last year of the study.


“[W]e confirm that there is a clear structural break in China’s emission pattern around 2015,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “We conclude that the decline of Chinese emissions is structural and is likely to be sustained if the nascent industrial and energy system transitions continue.”

The goal of the Paris climate agreement is to limit emissions to keep the global average temperature at less than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Of course that doesn’t just rely on slight decreases, but a 3 percent reduction in annual emissions.

“They are able to manage quite significant economic growth, but have been able to stabilize their emissions over the past few years,” Dabo Guan from the University of East Anglia in the UK, the lead author on the study, told The Daily Beast. “I wouldn’t call it a significant decline, but it’s stability.”

However, it might not be all good news, notes The Independent. Because some analysts have said that China’s consumption increased in 2017, and is still increasing in 2018. According to Greenpeace, China’s overall CO2 emissions could rise by as much as 5 percent this year.


“When China’s coal use fell and CO2 emissions stabilized in 2013-2016, this opened a much-needed window for global emissions to peak and decline as required to avoid the worst consequences of climate change,” they noted.

“However, in the past two years, the government has been running an aggressive stimulus program that has breathed life to smokestack industries and set the clock back on the economic transformation and clean energy transition that are so crucial for the country’s future.”

The country is also invested in the mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an attempt to create a “new silk road” of trade across the world, which by some estimates could increase global carbon emissions – although it may lessen emissions at home.

This latest study therefore paints a bit of an unclear picture going forwards. Considering China has also recently been accused of restarting the production of highly dangerous chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), they may not necessarily have the best climate interests at heart.


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