Despite past governmental reporting and previous optimism, China has been burning more coal than it had previously reported.
New figures released quietly by the Chinese Government this week shows that, more than simply burning more coal, China has been burning up to 17% more coal per year than the government had previously disclosed, laying to rest many hopes that the country was on a fast track to carbon dioxide emissions decline.
According to Chris Buckley, writing for The New York Times, who broke the story, the revised 17% increase in coal burning means that China has been emitting a lot more carbon dioxide than had previously been estimated — “almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations.”
In fact, the increase in China’s carbon dioxide emissions is greater than the total fossil fuel emissions emitted by the entire German economy.
Over the past several years, the Chinese Government has released numerous reports showing that its coal consumption and corresponding carbon dioxide emissions have been declining.
In August of 2014, the Chinese capital of Beijing not only announced that it would ban coal by 2020 in six inner-city Beijing districts, but that it had also cut coal use by 7% in the first half of the year. The news was followed a month later by the news that China would ban the sale and import of coal containing high quantities of ash and sulphur.
Then, a month later, China’s Coal Resource announced that the country’s coal use had dropped by 1.28% (at the same time as electricity consumption had actually increased, which began people wondering whether China had disconnected economic growth from coal usage). China’s coal production levels were even reported to have dropped by 7% in September of 2014, down to 21.97 million tonnes.
The news was backed up in March of this year, when data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China indicated the country’s coal consumption had dropped a total of 2.9% in 2014, coupled with CO2 emissions declining by 0.7%.
Several months later, in May, Greenpeace’s Energydesk reported dramatic findings, showing that China’s coal consumption had fallen by almost 8% in the first four months of the year, and CO2 emissions had fallen accordingly by 5% (when compared to the first four months of 2014).
However, all of this may have been nothing more than inaccurate reporting on China’s part, and a pipe-dream for the rest of us.
Chris Buckley quotes Ayaka Jones, a China analyst at the United States Energy Information Administration in Washington, who said “It’s been a confusing situation for a long time,” adding that the new data had vindicated a recent analysis she had conducted on China’s coal consumption.