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China burns more coal than it reported: a whole Germany’s worth of emissions

Il New York Times rivela i nuovi dati ufficiali di Pechino: il carbone utilizzato è almeno il 17 per cento in più di quanto affermato in precedenza.

China, the world’s major emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, significantly underestimated the amount of coal used as energy source in its territory. A New York Times’ investigative report has revealed the data recently published by Beijing’s government in an energy statistics yearbook (which didn’t receive particular media attention).

According to the Asian economic giant, the amount of coal burnt every year since 2000 has been significantly higher than estimated: on average, 17% more. In terms of increase in CO2 emissions, China has produced about 1 billion tonnes of CO2 more annually. “Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense,” comments the US newspaper. In order to better understand the situation, just consider that such calculation error corresponds to the annual emissions of Germany, the first European economy.

 

Cina carbone
Chinese worker in Chongqing Steel Company’s steel plant . The emissions from the heavy industry have been underestimated over the past years by the Chinese government ©China Photos/Getty Images

 

The revisions have been carried out due to a “census of the economy” carried out by the Chinese government in 2013, which shown gaps in data collection. In particular, according to Ayaka Jones, analyst at the United States Energy Information Administration, the new data indicated that much of the change came from heavy industry, including cement factories and steel plants. Therefore, in 2012 alone, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption (i.e. 70% of the total coal used annually in the United States).

 

China Daily Life - Pollution
Numerous Chinese cities have serious pollution problems. According to the New York Times, wrong calculations on coal would explain this phenomenon ©Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

 

The New York Times also reports that the announcement could further mess up the negotiations to be held during the next UN Climate Change Conference, COP21. China’s government, ahead of the event, did not promise a decrease in emissions, but a “maximum peak”, which is likely to be reached by 2030.

 

According to Yang Fuquiang, former energy official in China, “this will have a big impact, because China has been burning so much more coal than we believed. It turns out that it was an even bigger emitter than we imagined. This helps to explain why China’s air quality is so poor, and that will make it easier to get national leaders to take this seriously”. Moreover, according to Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University in eastern China, said that “the international agencies will also have to adjust their databases. This is troublesome because many forecasts and commitments were based on the previous data”.

 

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