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China's carbon emissions are anticipated to experience a "structural decline" in 2024

China's carbon emissions are anticipated to experience a "structural decline" in 2024, despite a recent rise in emissions during the third quarter of this year, according to a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). The report reveals that China is set to add a substantial 290GW in renewable energy capacity in 2023, nearly double the capacity added in the previous year. This includes 210GW of solar, 70GW of wind, 7GW of hydro, and 3GW of nuclear power generation. The expansion in clean energy is expected to result in a total of 423 terawatt hours of electricity per year, nearly matching China's projected electricity demand growth in 2023.

China's carbon emissions are anticipated to experience a "structural decline" in 2024

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at CREA, highlighted the significance of this development, stating, "For the first time, the rate of low-carbon energy expansion is now sufficient to not only meet, but exceed the average annual increase in China’s demand for electricity overall." Myllyvirta added that if efforts to stall the growth of China’s wind and solar capacity are unsuccessful, low-carbon energy growth could cover rising electricity demand beyond 2024, ushering in a prolonged period of structural decline in fossil fuel use and emissions.

Despite these positive projections, China's carbon emissions increased by 4.7% in the third quarter, following rises in the first and second quarters. The surge in emissions is attributed to a rebound in oil consumption, which increased by an estimated 19% year on year, approaching pre-pandemic levels. Power-sector coal use also played a significant role in rising emissions during the same period.

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The report acknowledges concerns about China's continued expansion of coal power capacity for energy security reasons, despite the country's commitment to "phase down" coal consumption starting in 2026. China approved permits for 52GW of new coal power capacity in the first half of 2023, raising questions about the country's ability to meet its "dual-carbon" targets of reaching peak emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

To address these challenges, CREA emphasizes the need for China to cease approving new coal power projects immediately. Myllyvirta emphasized, "Retirements of existing [coal] capacity would have to be accelerated significantly, or some already permitted [coal power] projects would have to be cancelled or shelved," to achieve the country's emission reduction goals.



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