Fast growing capital investments in infrastructure projects have led to the expansion of the construction industry and its energy and CO2 intensive supply chain including steel and cement production. As a result of this transformation of China’s economy, more and more CO2 is released per unit of gross domestic product recently – a reversion of a long-term trend.
Previously China’s greenhouse gas emission growth was driven by rising consumption and exports. Today this emission growth is offset by emission savings from efficiency increases. This now is thwarted by the building of infrastructure – which is even more important as it dictates tomorrow’s emissions, the international team of researchers concludes.
“Up to 2002 there has been a race between consumption growth and efficiency gains,” says Jan C. Minx from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, lead author of the study. “However, the recent rise in emissions is completely due to the massive structural change of China’s economy. Emissions grow faster and faster, because CO2 intensive sectors linked to the building of infrastructure have become more and more dominant. China has developed into a ‘carbonizing dragon’.”
Just recently, China became the world’s largest consumer of energy and emitter of CO2, overtaking the US. Emissions almost tripled between 1992 and 2007. By far the biggest part of this increase happened between 2002 and 2007. The average annual CO2 emission growth alone in this period is of similar magnitude than the total CO2 emissions in the UK. Exports show the fastest CO2 emission growth. However, in absolute terms, capital investments and the construction industry are prime, after exports had briefly taken the lead.
There are other important drivers. Urbanization for instance is a more important driver of emissions from household consumption than the sheer growth of population or even the decreasing household size, according to the study. When people move from the countryside to the city, this goes with lifestyle changes. Urban dwellers for instance tend to seek gas heating and electricity. They also depend more upon a transport infrastructure to get to their workplace. All of this implies a higher per capita carbon footprint.
The study uses a so-called structural decomposition analysis. Structural decomposition analysis allows to assign changes in emission over time to a set of drivers such as consumption growth, efficiency gains or structural change. The study highlights the challenges of assigning emission changes unambiguously to drivers when this growth is rapid. However, the study uses a very careful approach in this assignment by taking the average of all possible decompositions.
“The energy and carbon intensive nature of capital investment might be hard to avoid as China is an emerging economy building up its infrastructure,” says Giovanni Baiocchi from the University of East Anglia, UK. “The high levels of CO2 emissions from capital investment might therefore only be of temporary nature.” However, it is crucial that China now invests in the right kind of infrastructure to limit the growth of CO2 emissions that causes global warming.” The type of infrastructure put in place today will also largely determine future mitigation costs,” Baiocchi says. The study therefore emphasizes that putting a low carbon infrastructure in place in China as well as other emerging and developing economies from the beginning is a key global challenge for entering low emission pathways.
Article: Jan C. Minx, Giovanni Baiocchi, Glen P. Peters, Christopher L. Weber, Dabo Guan, Klaus Hubacek: A “Carbonizing Dragon”: China’s Fast Growing CO2 Emissions Revisited, Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es201497mk
Weblink to the article: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es201497m
For further information please contact the PIK press office:Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
Mareike Schodder | PIK Potsdam
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences