Nearly 30% of Global Emissions Come From China

Our Daily planet

China's greenhouse gas emissions have soared higher than all developed nations combined, according to a new report by Rhodium Group.

According to Rhodium's analysis, China's emissions have more than tripled over the past 30 years, in part because the country continues to build coal power plants and fund fossil fuel projects beyond its borders.

On the other hand, the US produced 11% of global emissions in 2019, making it the second-largest emitter that year. Looking on a longer time scale, though, the US remains the country with the most emissions over time, putting over a quarter of all carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why This Matters

The report shows a growing gap between climate promises and actual emissions reductions. China has announced a net zero by 2060 target and is the world's largest producer of renewable energy, but it is also a leading polluter running more than 1,000 coal plants. Climate Action Tracker rates the country’s current climate plans "highly insufficient" and "are not at all consistent with holding warming to below 2C." The country's rising emissions show the need to allow peoples' living standards to rise without bringing carbon levels up with them.

More from the report

The Rhodium Group's report breaks down climate-damaging gas emissions, including land use and forests, which are carbon sinks while living and release the gas into the atmosphere when cut down.

  • India's emissions topped the entire European Union bloc (6.6% of the world's emissions were from India; 6.4% came from the EU).
  • Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, and Japan round out the top eight contributors to emissions worldwide.
  • In another first, China's emissions passed 14 gigatons, a 25% increase in the past decade alone.
  • The US remains the country with the highest emissions per person at 17.6 tons per capita.

Curbing the coal

While Asian countries like Japan and Korea have slowed their financing of new coal projects, China continues to fund highly polluting energy.

Even though China had shuttered coal plants domestically before the pandemic, as Quartz wrote:

…[M]ore than 70% of all coal plants built today are reliant on Chinese funding. Since 2013, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has committed over USD $50 billion in state finance to building 26.8 Gigawatts of overseas coal facilities across 152 countries. That’s just the beginning.

What’s also troublesome is that China has gone on a "coal binge" to supercharge its economic recovery from the pandemic that experts warn will make its goal of peaking climate emissions by 2030 very difficult.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Everything to Know About Coal (in Under 3 Minutes), January 4, 2018.


Copyright © 2021 Our Daily Planet. Reprinted here with permission. This version may have been edited from the original article published on May 17, 2021.