China’s carbon emissions fell nearly 8% in the April-June quarter from the same period last year, the biggest drop in a decade, according to the carbon research service. Carbon Brief climate.
The drop in emissions reflects a dramatic slowdown in Chinese economic growth caused by large-scale coronavirus shutdowns and a crisis in the heavily indebted real estate sector. This is the fourth consecutive quarter in which emissions have fallen in China, the world’s largest emitter.
Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Helsinki-based Center for Energy and Clean Air Research, which compiled the data for Carbon Brief, said there had been a 44% drop in the number of construction projects started and a drop of 33%. in those completed during the second quarter.
“The [emissions] the decline was driven by the decline in steel and cement production due to the real estate crisis, [a] decline in transportation oil consumption caused by Covid-19 control measures, slow growth in electricity consumption and a sharp increase in renewable energy generation,” Myllyvirta said.
Steel is heavily used in construction, and the steel sector is the second-largest carbon-emitting industry in China, after power generation.
The most recent fall of a similar magnitude was in the first three months of 2020, when emissions fell 7% as Covid lockdowns disrupted China’s economy during the first phase of the pandemic. pandemic.
The economy is now also dragged down by spiraling debt in the real estate sector following the default of developer Evergrande last year.
Since then, several other developers have defaulted. Cement production in the second quarter fell 18% year-on-year, according to the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research. During the same period, the Chinese economy as a whole grew by only 0.4%, according to official data.
An unprecedented heat wave and drought have caused further disruptions in the current quarter. In August, China’s southwest Sichuan province, which relies heavily on hydropower, was forced to ask industrial power users to halt production after tributary rivers dried up.
With hydropower generation well below normal levels, analysts have predicted that China will turn to coal to boost power supply, despite the inevitable impact on emissions. Beijing has previously pledged to peak CO₂ emissions by 2030.
China had been trying to increase coal-fired power generation capacity, approving 21 gigawatts in new projects in the first six months of the year, the highest amount since 2016, Myllyvirta said.
He added that there were signs that coal-fired power generation was unable to meet demand in August due to previous energy policies that made it too expensive.
“Sichuan [coal-fired] thermal power plants were producing at 70% of their full capacity at a time when [power] the shortage was at its worst, a situation where 100% would be expected,” Myllyvirta said.
“This indicates that high fuel prices and regulated electricity prices, which make thermal power generation unprofitable, are part of the problem.”
Additional reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Check out the FT’s coverage here.
Curious about the FT’s commitments to environmental sustainability? Learn more about our scientific goals here
China’s carbon emissions drop 8% as economic growth slows