After a couple decades of dramatic economic growth, China (with its population of almost 1.4 billion) is now emitting more greenhouses gas that any other single nation. That means that China’s emission trends are incredibly important to watch if you care about the future of climate change. After China signed onto the Paris Agreement in 2015 and pledged to ensure its emissions would stop increasing by 2030, a surprising thing happened: it became apparent that China’s emissions had already dropped.
So what’s going on? Has China met its pledge 15 years early or is this just a bump in an otherwise rising road caused by a temporary economic downturn? Much has been made of this question, and a team of researchers led by Dabo Guan and Jing Meng added a new analysis to the discussion this week.
The team’s first step is to update annual emissions totals (through 2016). A number of different groups have produced estimates, and this updated version comes in at the low end. It also makes 2013 stand out as a slightly stronger peak, with 2014-2016 clearly lower.