The gigatonne gap in China’s carbon dioxide inventories

Journal name:
Nature Climate Change
Volume:
2,
Pages:
672–675
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nclimate1560
Received
Accepted
Published online
Corrected online

Reliable national statistics are fundamental for climate change science as well as for global negotiations about future emission targets and the allocation of responsibilities. China, the world’s top CO2 emitter1, 2, has frequently been questioned about its data transparency and accuracy of energy and emission statistics 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. China implemented a top-down statistical system where energy statistics are compiled under the aegis of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) at the central government level, which oversees and coordinates the corresponding statistical departments at provincial and county levels8. The NBS publishes annually both national and provincial energy statistics. We compile the CO2 emission inventories for China and its 30 provinces for the period 1997–2010. However, CO2 emissions calculated on the basis of the two publicly available official energy data sets differ by 1.4 gigatonnes for 2010. The figure is equivalent to Japan’s annual CO2 emissions, the world’s fourth largest emitter, with 5% of the global total. Differences in reported coal consumption in coal washing and manufacturing are the main contributors to the discrepancy in official energy statistics. This paper presents an initial step to share and validate data and discuss methodologies in full transparency towards better energy and emission data for China.

At a glance

Figures

  1. The sources of China/'s CO2 emissions by fuel type during 1997-2010.
    Figure 1: The sources of China’s CO2 emissions by fuel type during 1997–2010.

    The area chart (left) illustrates the increase of CO2 emissions calculated from the national energy statistics since 1997 broken down by different fuel type. Other fuels include, for example, coke oven gas, other gas, other coking products, LPG, refinery gas and other petroleum products. The dashed line represents the aggregated CO2 emissions calculated from the provincial energy statistics 1997–2010. The column chart (right) presents the 1.4Gt emission gap in 2010 between national and provincial statistics and the pattern of different fuel types in contributing to the emission gap. For data sources, see refs 9, 24.

  2. Comparison of China/'s emission and energy statistics.
    Figure 2: Comparison of China’s emission and energy statistics.

    For data sources, see Supplementary Section S4. The starting point of all bars is ‘0’. National total and provincial summation CO2 emissions are estimated by the authors (see Methods). We select raw coal, crude oil and natural gas to illustrate the differences in China’s energy statistics. Each energy type includes the final energy consumption and energy for transformation. There are different representations of the total CO2 emissions from international statistical sources, but their emission accounting approaches are different (the full data set and explanations of data sources are available at Supplementary Section S4). The pie charts and associated percentages on the right side of the figure explain the energy consumption sectors contributing to the discrepancy in raw coal consumption between provincial and national statistics in 2010. The total gap of 747Mt was mainly caused by energy transformation and loss (56%) and final consumption sectors (44%).

  3. Comparison of industrial outputs in physical units between China/'s national and provincial statistics in 2010.
    Figure 3: Comparison of industrial outputs in physical units between China’s national and provincial statistics in 2010.

    A positive percentage shows how much larger the provincial statistics are compared with the national statistics. Data set and data source explanation is available in Supplementary Table S2.1.

Change history

Corrected online 14 June 2012
In the version of this Letter originally published online, the affiliation for Dabo Guan, Zhu Liu and Yong Geng was incorrect. This has been corrected in all versions of the Letter.

References

  1. Guan, D., Peters, G. P., Weber, C. L. & Hubacek, K. Journey to world top emitter—an analysis of the driving forces of China’s recent emissions surge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L04709 (2009).
  2. Peters, G. P. et al. Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. Nature Clim. Change 2, 24 (2012).
  3. Liu, J. & Yang, H. China fights against statistical corruption. Science 325, 675676 (2009).
  4. Peters, G., Webber, C., Guan, D. & Hubacek, K. China’s growing CO2 emissions—A race between lifestyle changes and efficiency gains. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 59395944 (2007).
  5. Sinton, J. E. Accuracy and reliability of China’s energy statistics. China Econom. Rev. 12, 372383 (2001).
  6. Sinton, J. E. & Fridley, D. G. What goes up: Recent trends in China’s energy consumption. Energ. Policy 28, 671687 (2000).
  7. Marland, G. Uncertainties in accounting for CO2 from fossil fuels. J. Industr. Ecol. 12, 136139 (2008).
  8. Holz, C. A. China’s statistical system in transition: Challenges, data problems, and institutional innovations. Rev. Income Wealth 50, 381409 (2004).
  9. National Bureau of Statistics China Energy Statistical Yearbook (Various Years) (Department of Industry and Transport Statistics, Energy Bureau National Development Reform Commission, Eds, China Statistics Press, 1995–2011).
  10. IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2006).
  11. Aden, N. Initial Assessment of NBS Energy Data Revisions (Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, China Energy Group, 2010).
  12. Wu, L., Kaneko, S. & Matsuoka, S. Driving forces behind the stagnancy of China’s energy-related CO2 emissions from 1996 to 1999: The relative importance of structural change, intensity change and scale change. Energ. Policy 33, 319335 (2005).
  13. Streets, D. G. et al. Recent reductions in china’s greenhouse gas emissions. Science 294, 18351837 (2001).
  14. Wu, H. C. The Chinese GDP growth rate puzzle: How fast has the chinese economy grown? Asian Econom. Paper 6, 123 (2007).
  15. Price, L., Wang, X. & Yun, J. China’s Top-1000 Energy-Consuming Enterprises Program: Reducing Energy Consumption of the 1000 Largest Industrial Enterprises in China (Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2008).
  16. China Coal Information Institute China Coal Industry Yearbook 2009 (Coal Industry Press, 2011).
  17. Price, L. et al. Energy use and carbon dioxide emissions from steel production in China. Energy 27, 429446 (2002).
  18. NDRC Overview of the 11th Five Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. (National Development and Reform Commission, 2006).
  19. Geng, Y. Eco-indicators: Improve China’s sustainability targets. Nature 477, 162 (2011).
  20. Akimoto, H., Ohara, T., Kurokawa, J. & Horii, N. Verification of energy consumption in China during 1996–2003 by using satellite observational data. Atmos. Environ. 40, 76637667 (2006).
  21. Jiao, L. & Stone, R. China looks to balance its carbon books. Science 334, 886887 (2011).
  22. Guan, D. & Hubacek, K. China can offer domestic emission cap-and-trade in post 2012. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44, 5327 (2010).
  23. Fridley, D., Zheng, N. & Qin, Y. Inventory of China’s Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in 2008 (Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, China Energy Group, 2011).
  24. National Bureau of Statistics China Statistical Yearbook 2009 (China Statistics Press, 2010).
  25. Peters, G. P., Weber, C. & Liu, J. Construction of Chinese Energy and Emissions Inventory IndEcol Report 4/2006 (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2006).
  26. Guan, D., Hubacek, K., Weber, C. L., Peters, G. P. & Reiner, D. M. The drivers of Chinese CO2 emissions from 1980 to 2030. Glob. Environ. Change 18, 626634 (2008).
  27. Minx, J. C. et al. A Carbonizing Dragon: China’s fast growing CO2 emissions revisited. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 91449153 (2011).
  28. Weber, C. L., Peters,, Glen, P., Guan, D. & Hubacek, K. The contribution of chinese exports to climate change. Energ. Policy 36, 35723577 (2008).
  29. Guan, D. & Barker, T. S. Low carbon development in the least developed region: A case study of Guangyuan, Sichuan province, southwest China. Nat. Hazards 62, 243254 (2012).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Key Laboratory of Pollution Ecology and Environmental Engineering, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China

    • Dabo Guan,
    • Zhu Liu &
    • Yong Geng
  2. School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

    • Dabo Guan
  3. St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB3 0BN, UK

    • Dabo Guan
  4. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China

    • Zhu Liu
  5. Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB3 9EP, UK

    • Sören Lindner
  6. Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • Klaus Hubacek

Contributions

D.G. and Z.L. designed the research; Z.L., S.L. and D.G. compiled the data; D.G. and Z.L. performed initial analysis; all authors contributed to the results’ interpretations and writing.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to:

Author details

Supplementary information

Additional data