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New study finds China's emissions likely to peak by 2025

China’s greenhouse gas emissions could peak more than five years earlier than expected, helping to avoid dangerous climate change, according to a new paper published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at LSE.

The authors of the paper, Fergus Green and Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, find that, although President Xi Jinping has agreed publicly to reduce emissions by 2030, China’s emissions will likely begin to decline by 2025.

Chinese FlagThe paper states: “Analysing 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. They could peak even earlier than that.”

The authors find that, if China’s greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025, they would reach between 12.5 and 14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This finding suggests it is increasingly likely that the world will avoid global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The paper states: “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.”

However, the paper notes: “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.”

The authors find that structural economic changes and recent Chinese government policies have combined to cause a “remarkably rapid shift” in the trajectory of China’s emissions.

China’s political culture may explain why China’s government erred on the side of caution when pledging publicly to reduce emissions.

The paper states: “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.”

It adds: “The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year will be more successful if governments everywhere understand the extent of change in China, its implications for global emissions, and the positive impact that China’s clean industrial development, investment and innovation plans are likely to have on global markets for clean goods and services (and the adverse implications for exporters of coal and certain other raw materials).”

For more information about this media release,  contact Ben Parfitt on +44 (0) 207 955 6425 or b.parfitt@lse.ac.uk.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (http://www.cccep.ac.uk) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.

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