Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

China’s Carbon Emissions Report 2016

| October 2016

Regional Carbon Emissions and the Implication for China’s Low Carbon Development

Climate change driven by anthropogenic carbon emissions is one of the most serious challenges facing human development. China is currently the world’s largest developing country, primary energy consumer, and carbon emitter. The nation releases one quarter of the global total of carbon dioxide (9.2 Gt CO2 in 2013), 1.5 times that from the US. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the growth in global carbon emission between 2010 and 2012 occurred in China. Without mitigation, China’s emissions could rise by more than 50% in the next 15 years. Given the magnitude and growth rate of China’s carbon emissions, the country has become a critical partner in developing policy approaches to reduce global CO2 emissions.

China is a country with significant regional differences in terms of technology, energy mix, and economic development. 1 Understanding the characteristics and state of regional carbon emissions within China is critical for designing geographically appropriate mitigation policies, including the provincial cap and trade system that is projected to be launched in 2017. In this study, I summarize the key features and drivers of China’s regional carbon emissions and conclude with suggestions for a low carbon policy for China.

The principal findings are:

  1. Provincial aggregated CO2 emissions increased from 3 billion tons in 2000 to 10 billion tons in 2016. During the period, Shandong province contributed most to national emissions, followed by Liaoning, Hebei, and Shanxi provinces. Most of the CO2 emissions were from raw coal, which is primarily burned in the manufacturing and the thermal power sectors.
  2. Significant differences exist among provinces in terms of CO2 emissions. Analyses of per capita emissions and emission intensity indicate that provinces located in the northwest and north had higher per capita. CO2 emissions and greater emission intensities than the central and southeast coastal regions. Developing areas have intensive resource use and their economic structure is dominated by heavy industries with higher sectoral emission intensity. These areas contribute to most of the growth in national emissions and are the main drivers of China’s carbon intensive economic structure.
  3. An analysis of the factors that affect China’s CO2 emissions shows that technology heterogeneity is directly connected to China’s carbon growth. The dissimilar rate of adoption of energy efficient technologies among regions is a major barrier to China’s CO2 mitigation, and thus needs more attention from researchers and policy makers.
For more information on this publication: Please contact Environment and Natural Resources
For Academic Citation: Liu, Zhu. “China’s Carbon Emissions Report 2016.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, October 2016.