China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to fall in 2024 and could be facing structural decline, due to record growth in the installation of new low-carbon energy sources.
New analysis for Carbon Brief, based on official figures and commercial data, shows China’s CO2 emissions continuing to rebound from the nation’s “zero-Covid” period, rising by an estimated 4.7% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2023.
The strongest growth was in oil demand and other sectors that had been affected by pandemic policies, until the lifting of zero-Covid controls at the end of 2022.
Other key findings from the analysis include:
● China has been seeing a boom in manufacturing, which has offset a contraction in demand for carbon-intensive steel and cement due to the ongoing real-estate slump.
● The emissions rebound in 2023 has been accompanied by record installations of low-carbon electricity generating capacity, particularly wind and solar.
● Hydro generation is set to rebound from record lows due to drought in 2022-23.
● China’s economic recovery from Covid has been muted. To date, it has not repeated previous rounds of major infrastructure expansion after economic shocks.
● There has been a surge of investment in manufacturing capacity, particularly for low-carbon technologies, including solar, electric vehicles and batteries.
● This is creating an increasingly important interest group in China, which could affect the country’s approach to domestic and international climate politics.
● On the other hand, coal power capacity continues to expand, setting the scene for a showdown between the country’s traditional and newly emerging interest groups.
Taken together, these factors all but guarantee a decline in China’s CO2 emissions in 2024.
If coal interests fail to stall the expansion of China’s wind and solar capacity, then low-carbon energy growth would be sufficient to cover rising electricity demand beyond 2024. This would push fossil fuel use – and emissions – into an extended period of structural decline.
Continue reading the full analysis on Carbon Brief.