Friday Messenger: China emits more CO2 per person than the EU

In 2013, China’s per capita CO2 emissions surpassed Europe’s for the first time ever. In addition, China represented nearly 60% of last year’s total global emissions increase.

As a result, the longterm goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees appears increasingly elusive, warns a Global Carbon Project (GCP) report published on 21 September.

Chinese coal lorryChina has long stressed that its ‘developing country’ status should give it more leeway in its efforts to cut emissions and that it should not be bound to any global mandatory climate targets.

Industrialized nations are chiefly responsible for global warming, and should make the greatest contribution to emission cuts, argues the Asian powerhouse.

Thus, China independently set its own targets, such as a 40-45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 2020.

Nevertheless, it still consumes about half of the world’s thermal coal, according to a Carbon Tracker report. GCP found that coal burning remained the main source (43%) of global emissions in 2013.

Meanwhile, Europe was the only key region that registered a drop in emissions in 2013. It released 11% less pollutants in the atmosphere than the prior year, thus modestly compensating for increases in other regions.

Europe’s emissions decline should not be cause for celebration since it is largely attributed to the economic downturn. Historically, financial crises have had little lasting effect on emissions, according to GCP data. Further, GDP and carbon intensity trends are relatively stable over time, leading to stable emission growth.

Thus, GCP forecasts a 2.5% emissions increase in 2014, slightly above last year’s 2.3%, and steady yearly increases would “likely” lead to a 3.2-5.4 degrees rise in the world’s temperature by 2100.

This is significantly above the 2 degrees threshold when, according to international institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming would inflict the most dangerous damage to the planet.

Opinions diverge on the likelihood of the most catastrophic scenarios and the role coal would play in them. According to Carbon Tracker, global coal demand will peak by 2016, coinciding with a peak in China’s domestic thermal coal consumption.

Slowing GDP growth, the structural transformation of China from a heavy industry to a service economy, and an aggressive programme of energy efficiency and energy source diversification would reduce the share of coal in power generation from 76.1% in 2013 to 55.8% by 2020, thus slowing emissions growth.

But even if coal was entirely removed from global power generation, the 2 degree threshold would still be breached, warns a separate report from the Climate Action Tracker. Global warming would not be so severe though if coal is mostly replaced by renewables rather than gas.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the United Nations Climate Summit, IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri will say: “We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive. It will not. But wait until you get the bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of inaction.”


  • 23 September UN Climate Summit
  • 23-24 October EU leaders are expected to agree the EU climate and energy package for 2030 and recommendations for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris;
  • 30 November to 11 December 2015 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to try to conclude a universal climate change agreement;
  • 2020 New climate change agreement would enter into force;
  • 2020 Deadlne for EU to meet binding targets for 20% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in energy efficiency, and market share for renewable energy.


This piece comes from EurActiv, a website which is full of information about every nation in Europe – and the rest of the world. Get it from the web or get the specific article from China/CO2

Pixie Energy

Pixie logo Pixie Energy is an incubator and a facilitator of strategic research and project work, focusing on energy regulation, policy and markets at the local and national level. Find out more about Pixie Energy here.

Local Energy Matters: Scotland

Local Energy Matters: Scotland is a free-to-download brochure with a focus on energy tariffs in the two Scottish electricity distribution regions, as well news on local energy and low-carbon schemes.

Previous editions can be download here.

Scottish energy market overview

You can read an overview of the Scottish energy market here.

Scottish Government energy feed