Scientists recently revealed that China’s annual carbon emissions growth declined significantly from 10% during the 2002-2012 period to 0.3% during the period from 2012-2017. This decelerating trend in carbon emissions is closely related to a new phase of economic development the researchers have dubbed “the new normal.”
The results appear in a study conducted by a team from the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences along with other collaborators. It will be published in One Earth under the title, “The slowdown in China’s carbon emissions growth in the new phase of economic development.”
As the researchers show, the slowdown in carbon emissions growth is not accidental. China, as an emerging economy, makes a large contribution to global carbon emissions and understands that stabilizing Earth's climate will rely heavily upon the trajectory of Chinese emissions. Therefore, China has set targets to reduce its own emissions so that. Currently, China is struggling to reduce emissions, thereby achieving the peak of its CO2 emissions on track around 2030 in alignment with its commitment at the Paris Climate Change Conference in November 2015.
According to the current study, China has taken three main actions to help slow its carbon emissions growth:
First, China has dramatically improved energy efficiency. For example, China has promoted a technological “energy revolution” by developing renewable energy, and has also reformed its energy markets. These changes have helped China establish a clean, efficient, economic, safe and sustainable modern energy system. Therefore, the carbon intensity in the mining and textile sectors declined by 56% and 25%, respectively, between 2012 and 2017.
Second, since the 2008 global financial crisis, China has actively pursued economic transformation and focused on increasing the quantity and quality of consumption. In the period immediately after China’s accession to the WTO in 2001, exports and investments made large contributions to both China’s GDP and emissions. However, in recent years, the proportion of emissions caused by exports has dropped to 19%, while the proportion linked to urban consumption increased dramatically to 21% in 2017. In other words, changes in emissions are shifting from exports and investments to domestic consumption.
Third, China focuses on high-quality development. That is, development patterns are now shifting from rapid growth to sustained growth, with a more inclusive and sustainable economic structure.
All in all, China is continuously improving its development pattern as it focuses on creating a low- carbon, sustainable economy, thereby decelerating the growth of carbon emissions.
The study was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China, the Natural Science Foundation of China, and the University College London-Peking University Strategic Partner Funds.