LSE: China's carbon emissions likely to peak by 2025

As part of its commitments to a global pact to combat climate change, signed in Paris last year, China has promised to bring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by far the highest in the world, to a peak by "around 2030". However, China’s emissions might have already peaked in 2014, say economists Fergus Green and Nicholas Stern.

“It is quite possible that emissions will fall modestly from now on, implying that 2014 was the peak,” says the working paper published today by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In the report, co-authors Green and Stern project the trajectory of China’s emissions over the next decade. They predict that China’s growth path will likely involve a shift toward domestic consumption and more productive, higher-value industries, including services and clean-technology industries.

Green and Stern “can readily see how the trajectory of China’s CO2 emissions over the next decade is likely to be radically different from that during 2000-2013,” the report says. The authors admit that emissions could still be growing above 2014 levels, but expect that growth trajectory to be relatively flat and reach its peak by 2025.

The paper describes China’s promise to peak emissions “around 2030” as a “highly conservative upper limit from a government that prefers to under-promise and over-deliver“. However, according to Reuters, China’s carbon experts believe this promise to be realistic and do not appear to share the LSE’s optimism.

"You asked whether our emissions had peaked in 2014 – certainly not," Xie Zhenhua, special representative on climate change issues of the National Development and Reform Commission, said to the agency. "In fact, our carbon dioxide emissions are still increasing."

A recent report by Ernst & Young (EY) assessing renewable energy (RE) investment found that China had driven a 100% increase in clean energy spending across the Asia Pacific region between 2014 and 2015. The EY report found that China accounted for 69% of total RE investment in the region in 2015, spending more than $51 billion in the clean energy sector.