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China's Greenhouse Gas Emissions May Peak by 2025

Jun 08, 2015 04:13 PM EDT
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China's greenhouse gas emissions may peak by the year 2025, according to a new report from the London School of Economics (LSE), easing scientists' fears of its contribution to climate change.

Last year, China, one of the world's leaders in greenhouse gas emissions, followed in the US's footsteps and announced its plan to cut heat-trapping emissions by the year 2030. Now it seems that the country is on track to meet this goal - in fact, it is five years ahead of schedule.

"Analyzing trends in the key emitting sectors, we conclude that China's greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to peak as late as 2030 - the upper limit set by President Xi Jinping in November 2014 - and are much more likely to peak by 2025," the report said. "They could peak even earlier than that."

China makes up about 63 percent of the world's emissions, along with leading countries including the United States, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Remarkably, despite its large carbon footprint, China also became the world leader in making use of "green" technology in 2009. It has cut back on potential emissions and spent more funds on green technology than any other country, as well as been a top investor in wind and solar power, according to BBC News.

At this rate, the LSE authors estimated that China's overall emissions could peak at the equivalent of between 12.5 and 14 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year by 2025, up from about 10 billion around 2012.

This finding suggests that the world will likely avoid global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

While China's progress is encouraging in the fight against global warming, whether it will spur similar changes around the globe remains to be seen.

"China's transformation has profound implications for the global economy, and greatly increases the prospects for keeping global greenhouse gas emissions within relatively safe limits," the paper said.

However, the authors added, "whether the world can get onto that pathway [and limit global warming to no more 2°C] in the decade or more after 2020 depends in significant part on China's ability to reduce its emissions at a rapid rate, post-peak (as opposed to emissions plateauing for a long time), on the actions of other countries in the next two decades, and on global actions over the subsequent decades."

Many of China's changes in power generation have been prompted by the need to tackle chronic air pollution, which is so thick that it is choking the world, even changing global weather patterns.

The capital city of Beijing, in particular, infamous for its tainted air, has also made strides to cap its greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, it declared it would ban all industrial use of coal by the end of 2020.

Such structural and economic changes, along with new green policies, have resulted in a "remarkably rapid shift" in the trajectory of China's emissions. This development provides a hopeful outlook for the future, and makes it seem that our lofty goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) is not impossible, after all.

"China's international commitment to peak emissions 'around 2030' should be seen as a conservative upper limit from a government that prefers to under-promise and over-deliver. It must be remembered that China's pledge includes a commitment to use 'best efforts' to peak before 2030; we are beginning to see the fruits of China's best efforts," the paper concluded.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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