China Contributes to Slowing Carbon Emission Growth

China’s slowing economy and expanding hydropower capacity helped global carbon emissions growth slow to 1.4% in 2012, less than half the average increase over the previous ten years. From the BBC’s Matt McGrath:

Emissions from China increased by 3% but this was a significant slowdown compared to annual increases of around 10% over the past decade.

There were two important factors in reducing China’s CO2. The first was the ending of a large economic stimulus package. As a result electricity and energy prices increased at half the rate of GDP.

[…] China also achieved exceptional growth in the use of hydropower for the generation of electricity, increasing capacity and output by 23% in 2012. This alone had the effect of curbing the country’s emissions by 1.5%.

[…] Looking ahead, the report suggests that if the push for shale continues in the US, if China sticks to its published plans and if renewables continue to grow – particularly in Europe – global emissions might slow down permanently. [Source]

At The Carbon Brief, however, Freya Roberts notes that “a slower year isn’t really that unusual,” particularly when steep emissions growth since the turn of the millennium is taken as the reference point. Roberts also presents graphs showing the balance of emissions per capita and from developed versus developing countries. “But a slow rise is still a rise,” she concluded. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from developed or developing countries ultimately – 2012 still saw the highest carbon dioxide emissions on record.”

Recent reports that China’s hydropower dams are running substantially below capacity offers the prospect of even greater reductions to come. But rampant construction by the country’s “hydro-industrial complex” brings its own local environmental and social problems. A recent study by the Ministry of Agriculture cited dams as a major factor in the ecological “collapse” of the upper Yangtze river.


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