China's emissions drop while its economy skyrockets

26 August 2014

BEJING: According to fresh analysis, China's coal use is beginning to dip while its gross domestic product is still growing  compelling news that comes as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announces the country's carbon emissions have dropped 5%* this year. 

Since the mid-1990s, scientists around the world have agreed the global temperature rise should stay below 2 degrees Celsius; a number that seems small, but will mean we avoid the worst effects of dangerous climate change.

The good news is that China, the largest energy consumer and producer in the world, is cutting its emissions while its gross domestic product is still rising.

This week, China Premier Li Keqiang told Chinese media the country's emissions have already dropped 5% this year, despite economic growth.

And according to analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta, coal campaigner at Greenpeace, “China’s coal use might just have dropped first time this century”. This hypothesis is based on figures given by BJX News (in Chinese), that show how in the first half of the year, China's coal output was 1.816 billion tons, a drop of 1.8% in a year.

Even if the imports remain high - 159.87 million tons of coal in the first half of the year - the annual rise of 0.9% is almost a stop compared to the 14% increase of 2013. And since the coal stockpiles remain high (300 million tons or more), the combined data suggests China is in fact using less coal for its huge production of electricity.

Cleaner growth in China 2014

Image courtesy of - Compiled from China National Bureau of Statistics and China National Coal Association statistical releases.

The data clearly challenges the assumption that cleaner energy would hurt the rise of economy. This important fact was highlighted again this week by Ross Garnaut, Professorial Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne, in his lecture on China's low carbon energy transition.

“As China shifts its own production towards sustainable patterns, it demonstrates to other developing countries that continued economic growth can be consistent with reduced pressure on the environment,” underlines professor Garnaut. "And it demonstrates also that the synergy between political, social and scientific community is the key to shift from fossil-fuel energy to a more sustainable economy: the 'war on pollution' declared on March by the Premier Li Keqiang is the result of the “new model of economic development [that] has been emerging in China over the past half dozen years, and was influential in the 12th Five-Year Plan 2011-15. The policies being applied to break the old nexus between economic output and greenhouse emissions are extensive, and have the potential to reduce Chinese emissions by more than is required to meet the target advised to the United Nations.”

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, commented on the importance of climate and clean energy leadership from China, which will be demonstrated at next month's Global Cleantech Summit in Beijing: “China is the second largest economy so if China fails to embrace and lead the low carbon economy, the world fails. Thankfully China – and the US – are the biggest and most dynamic cleantech markets in the world, so we hope connecting leading companies and investors from these and other regions at our Global Cleantech Summit next month will help push forward the global ‘clean revolution’ tipping-point.

“Exciting changes are happening in this sector and the Summit’s sessions are designed to capture these through the ‘speed dating’ concept and deeper dialogue. But in order to deploy this clean technology and attract capital flows, we also need policy incentives in place. We hope the wide range of speakers gathered in Beijing will demonstrate this bold leadership on all fronts.”

As well as bringing together key experts and speakers from finance, industry and business, government leaders will also join the Summit to show their political support for low carbon growth.

During the Summit, The Climate Group will also share its work to accelerate cleantech adoption including its Future Academy program, new major platform TekoNet, our China finance work and sub-national governments project in China.

For further information on attending the event, please contact Rita Zhang on, or go to

You can also follow the Summit wherever you are in the world by using hashtag #Cleantech2014.



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by Ilario D'Amato

*China's carbon intensity fell by 5% in the first half of 2014, according to Reuters.

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