China's emissions may keep rising until 2030 - report


China’s greenhouse gas emissions – already the world’s highest – may not peak until 2030 and by then they would amount to half of the “carbon budget” needed to limit global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

That’s the principal finding of a new report by the HSBC bank’s Climate Change Centre, released as delegates representing 194 countries meet in Doha, Qatar, for the UN’s 18th annual climate change conference.

Wai-Shin Chan and Nick Robins, head of centre, said they believed China “is still at least 18 years away from peak emissions”. Scientists have said emissions must peak in 2015 to achieve the two-degree target. “Our analysis shows that China’s emissions might not peak until 2030, but by then its annual emissions could amount to half of the carbon budget – what is allowed in order to stay within the 2°C warming target.”

Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief climate negotiator, recently suggested his country’s emissions could peak when its GDP per capita was about half of what developed countries’ emissions were when they peaked. “We estimate this to be around $20,000-$25,000 per capita,” the HSBC researchers said. “China is currently at $5,000 per capita. Based on our analysis ... we estimate that Chinese GDP per capita could reach those levels around 2030.”

Analysing emissions

“We analyse China’s possible emissions in 2030 and find it could be at 12 gigatonnes – over 40 per cent more than current levels,” they said. This would be almost half of the allowed emissions under the International Energy Agency’s scenario for achieving the target.

Even if China could deliver larger reductions in the “carbon intensity” of its economy, emissions in 2030 could still be 10 gigatonnes – 40 per cent of the overall allowance envisaged under the scenario for capping global carbon emissions at 450 parts per million.

However, the HSBC researchers said they believed that China would continue to step up domestic climate change efforts, even if it wasn’t subject to legally binding absolute emissions reductions under any deal to renew the Kyoto Protocol, which expires on December 31st.

On a more positive note, deforestation rates in the Amazon – the world’s most important “carbon sink” – fell 27 per cent over the past year. An estimated 4,656sq km of forests were cleared compared to 6,418sq km the previous year.

Brazil’s environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, said: “I consider this fact one of the few positive environmental news stories the planet had this year.” She was instrumental in the adoption of a new forest code earlier this year, which is intended to limit deforestation in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has appointed high-level representatives to pursue a global solution for aviation emissions – coinciding with the passage of a Bill in the US Congress that would retaliate against the EU for including aviation in its emissions trading scheme.

“The White House now must endorse a global, market-based measure to rein in carbon pollution from aviation,” said Keya Chatterjee, director of international climate policy at the World Wildlife Fund. This is now being considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The European Commission believes its decision to exempt the US and other foreign airlines using EU airports for a year (until January 1st, 2014) will “create a positive atmosphere” for the ICAO talks. The deferral was made under pressure from the US and its airlines.