China's greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing since last year but have not yet reached its peak, with the country's policies still not fully aligned with long-term goals to limit temperature increases, a research report said on Monday.
China produces nearly a third of the world's annual carbon emissions, and its success in meeting its climate targets "is possibly the single most important factor in the global fight against climate change," said the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) after assessing emissions data and surveying 26 Chinese energy experts.
While China had made "remarkable achievements" in areas like renewable energy and electric vehicles, the report said it remained "off track" in coal-fired power, iron and steel. Driven by heavy industrial economic growth, its energy consumption was still growing too fast to meet climate goals.
Global climate talks ended on Sunday with an agreement to establish a fund to help the most vulnerable nations. However, countries failed to reach a consensus on bringing global emissions to a peak by 2025.
China is expected to meet its own 2030 peak emissions target with relative ease, but there’s concern over the total volume that could still rise significantly over the decade as Beijing builds new coal plants and other carbon-intensive infrastructure to tackle issues of energy security and economic stability.
The higher the peak, the harder it will be for Beijing to meet its 2060 carbon neutral goal, CREA said, adding that it was "crucially important" for China not just to meet but to significantly exceed targets.
Most of the experts surveyed were skeptical that China's emissions had now peaked but CREA lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta said there was still a possibility that new energy demand could all be met by low-carbon energy sources.
"It's a very real possibility that the peak has been passed," he said during a briefing on Monday. "Everything really depends on whether electricity demand grows at more or less than 4%."
This month, an annual report by the Global Carbon Project (GBP) estimated that China's emissions would fall by 0.9% in 2022, raising hopes that they have already peaked.
However, the decline was attributed to the country's extreme zero-COVID policies, which dealt a big blow to the economy and saw the financial centre of Shanghai locked down for more than two months.