China CO2 emissions from energy sector still on rise - researchers

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s emissions of the climate-warming greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from its energy sector are expected to increase this year and next, driven by rising oil and gas consumption instead of by coal, a team of industry experts warned on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Chimneys are seen through a window at a coal-fired power plant on a hazy day in Shimen county, central China's Hunan Province, June 2, 2014. U.S. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The oil and gas sectors could add more than 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to China’s total emissions, meaning overall greenhouse gas from energy use would still rise 2% this year and 1.2% in 2020, said researchers with the “China Coal Cap Research Project” at a Thursday briefing.

Meanwhile, emissions from coal are expected to fall 75.6 million tonnes in 2020 after a concerted effort to switch to cleaner energy sources, they said.

The research team, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S. think tank, is urging China to cut its coal use by at least 400 million tonnes - 8% of the total - over the 2021-2025 period. The council regularly submits recommendations to the Chinese government.

“We are facing a question - either to cut coal consumption faster in order to offset the emission growth from oil and gas, or to control carbon emissions coming from oil and gas use as well,” said Yang Fuqiang, senior advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

China lowered the share of coal in its energy mix to 59% last year, from 68% in 2012, and the researchers said it was expected to fall to 55.3% by 2020.

Although China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, it is still designated as a developing country and has not yet been obliged to cut its absolute CO2 levels.

However, it had promised to cut carbon intensity - the amount produced per unit of economic growth - by 40%-45% over the 2005-2020 period, and met the target two years in advance.

A government researcher has also suggested China could meet a 2030 target to bring its emissions to a peak as early as 2022.

But environmental groups have warned recently of signs that China is letting up in its campaign to shift away from coal in an attempt to stimulate economic growth and head off future energy shortages. Premier Li Keqiang said last month that China should continue to develop more clean coal and coal-fired power.

Beijing approved 196 million tonnes of new coal production capacity in the first three quarters of 2019, and it has 226 gigawatts of new coal-fired electricity capacity at various stages of development.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue