Are China’s Carbon Emissions Understated?

Amid Beijing’s claims that foreign embassies’ data on air quality is ‘unlawful’ and ‘inaccurate’ and the implementation of new air pollution regulations, there have been disputes about the accuracy of China’s air quality reports. Reports have indicated that China’s carbon emissions could be 20% higher than previously thought, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Scientists found that the annual emissions reported by China’s 30 provinces in 2010 added up to 1.4 billion tonnes a year more than the total reported by its National Bureau of Statistics.
The gap between the provinces’ data and the national figure is equivalent to the entire annual emissions from Japan – the world’s fourth-largest emitter. It is 5 per cent of total global emissions.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found the gap was mainly due to differences in reported levels of coal consumption in coal washing and manufacturing.

According to Washington Post, the difference between the national and provincial statistics is equivalent to the amount of all carbon emissions from Japan last year:
According to national-level statistics, Chinese carbon emissions grew at a 7.5 percent annual pace between 1997 and 2010, largely from coal use. But according to provincial statistics, emissions grew at an 8.5 percent pace. That’s a puzzling discrepancy, and it’s not clear which figure is actually correct.
The researchers, Dabo Guan, Zhu Liu, Yong Geng, Sören Lindner and Klaus Hubacek, come up with two possible explanations for the gap. The first is that the data is simply messy, due to the fact that many smaller Chinese firms are burning coal without the national government knowing about it. That might be due to shoddy record keeping. Or it might be due to black-market activity — small inefficient coal mines and coal-washing mills that were shuttered by the government and then

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