Uncertainties

There are significant uncertainties with regard to estimates of Chinese emissions of heat-trapping gases. Although China’s data collection systems have improved enormously in the past decade, those systems are not as developed or transparent as such systems in many industrialized countries. In addition, some Chinese data may have systematic reporting biases. Provincial economic and energy data may reflect promotion criteria for provincial officials, which have traditionally weighted hitting GDP targets heavily. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics has revised its estimates of coal consumption and other energy data several times in the past few years, with significant implications for emissions estimates.25

Analysis of these topics in the peer-reviewed literature has grown in recent years. In 2012, a paper in Nature found that China’s CO2 emissions calculated on the basis of two official Chinese data sets differed by 1.4 Gt (roughly the annual CO2 emissions of Japan). In 2015, a paper in Nature concluded that previous estimates of Chinese carbon dioxide emissions had been overstated by roughly 10%, due mainly to errors estimating emissions factors for Chinese coal. A 2015 Science article highlighted China’s unique method for estimating percentages of nonfossil energy. A 2016 Nature paper raised questions about previous estimates of a drop in Chinese coal use and related reductions in emissions.26

Improving climate data systems is a goal of the Chinese government. In 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the National Development and Reform Commissions (NDRC) established a 23-member Leading Group on Climate Statistics. NBS also launched “climate change statistical practice pilots” in 15 provinces. The State Council’s Work Plan for Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the 13th Five-Year Plan (October 2016) directs provinces and municipalities to “strengthen statistical work on climate change,” “improve the greenhouse gas emission measurement and monitoring system” and “promote greenhouse gas emissions data disclosure.” The Chinese government’s First Biennial Update Report and NDRC’s China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (2017) explain the work underway in these areas in some detail.27

Many organizations publish data on Chinese emissions of heat-trapping gases.

● The Chinese government provides official emissions estimates in its Biennial
Update Reports to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. China’s First
Biennial Update Report, submitted in December 2016, reported on China’s National
Greenhouse Gas Inventory of 2012. (Chinese government agencies do not publish
annual emissions estimates for CO2 or other heat-trapping gases.)

● Chinese government agencies, including the National Bureau of Statistics, publish
estimates of fossil fuel use, electricity consumption and other economic activity, in
some cases as often as monthly. The China Electricity Council regularly publishes
estimates on these topics as well. English translations of this material are often
provided on China Energy Portal. These data and other information are used by
experts around the world to estimate Chinese emissions.

● Among the organizations that publish information on Chinese emissions are the
International Energy Agency, EC Joint Research Center, World Bank, BP, US Energy 
Information Administration, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory, Climate Action Tracker, Global Carbon Project,
Enerdata, Rhodium Group and World Resources Institute.

Estimates from these organizations vary with respect to scope, timing and many other factors.

● Estimates of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are the most common. (These
estimates are published by IEA, US EIA and BP, for example.) Some organizations
provide estimates of CO2 emissions from other sources as well (e.g., EC Joint Research
Center and Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center). A few provide estimates of
emissions of all heat-trapping gases (e.g., Climate Action Tracker and World Bank).

● Some organizations (including BP, IEA, Rhodium Group and Climate Action Tracker)
provide estimates of emissions from the immediately preceding year. Other
organizations provide estimates with more of a time lag.

The table below summarizes recent emissions estimates by some leading organizations.

Figure 1-8: Chinese Emissions of Heat-Trapping Gases (Gt)

References

25. See generally EC Joint Research Centre, “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2016” at p.22, http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_docs/jrc-2016-trends-in-global-CO2-emissions-2016-report-103425.pdf; Derek Scissors, “China’s Economic Static Means Everything and Nothing” (May 24, 2016), http://www.newsweek.com/china-economicstats-mean-everything-nothing-463091.

26. Dabo Guan et al., “The Gigatonne Gap in China’s Carbon Dioxide Inventories,” Nature Climate Change (2012) pp.672–675, http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n9/full/nclimate1560.html; Zhu Liu et al., “Reduced carbon emission estimates from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in China,” Nature (August 20, 2015) at p.2, https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v524/n7565/full/nature14677.html; TENG Fei. “Carbon: resolve ambiguities in China’s emissions,” Nature (2015); TENG Fei and ZHU Songli. “Which estimation is more accurate? A technical comments on Nature Paper by Liu et al on overestimation of China’s emission. (谁的估计 更准确?评论Nature发表的中国CO2排放重估的论文),” Sci. Technol. Rev. (2015) at pp.112–116, http://www.kjdb.org/EN/abstract/abstract13182.shtml; Joanna Lewis et al., “Understanding China’s non-fossil energy targets,” Science (November 27, 2015), https://www.sciencemag.org/content/350/6264/1034; Jan Ivar Korsbakken et al., “Uncertainties around reductions in China’s coal use and CO2 emissions” (February 16, 2016) at p.1, http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n7/full/nclimate2963.html.

27. State Council, “Work Plan for Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the 13th Five-Year Plan,” (October 27, 2016), http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2016-11/04/content_5128619.htm; PRC, “First Biennial Update Report” (December 2016) at pp.97–108, http://unfccc.int/national_reports/non-annex_i_natcom/reporting_on_climate_change/items/8722.php; NDRC, “China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change” (2017) at pp.51–54, http://www.cma.gov.cn/en2014/news/News/201711/P020171122611767066567.pdf.

28. People’s Republic of China, “First Biennial Update Report on Climate Change” (December 2016) at p.22, https://unfccc.int/process/transparency-and-reporting/reporting-and-review-under-convention/biennial-update-reports-0.

29. Climate Action Tracker, “China country summary,” https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/china/ (accessed July 12, 2018).

30. EC Joint Research Center, “Fossil CO2 & GHG emissions of all world countries, 2017,” http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2andGHG1970-2016 (accessed July 14, 2018)

31. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, “Ranking of the world’s countries by 2014 total CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring,” http://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/top2014.tot (accessed July 12, 2018). See also display of this data by World Bank at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.KT?locations=CN and http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/3.8

32. IEA, “Global Energy and CO2 Status Report” (March 2018) at p.3, http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GECO2017.pdf; IEA, “CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion Highlights” (2017) at p.12, http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/CO2EmissionsFromFuelCombustion2017Overview.pdf.

33. “BP Statistical Review of World Energy” (June 2018) at p.49, https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/en/
corporate/pdf/energy-economics/statistical-review/bp-stats-review-2018-full-report.pdf
.

34. Enerdata, “Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2017,” https://yearbook.enerdata.net/CO2-fuel-combustion/CO2-emissions-data-from-fuel-combustion.html (accessed July 12, 2018).

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