Analysis: Contradictory coal data clouds China’s CO2 emissions ‘rebound’ in 2022

(CarbonBrief, 15 Feb 2023) New preliminary energy data from the Chinese government suggests there was a 1.3% rebound in the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during 2022. However, separate figures point to a 1% decline.

The discrepancy centres on official coal consumption data, which recorded a 3.3% surge in demand during 2022. In contrast, activity in the major coal-consuming sectors ranged from weak growth in coal power (+0.7%), through to declines in output for steel (-2%) and cement (-11%).

Analysis of these trends for Carbon Brief points to zero growth in China’s coal use in 2022, rather than the officially reported 3.3% increase. At the same time, there were falls in demand for oil and gas last year, as well as a significant drop in cement production.

The scale of the uncertainty over the true nature of China’s coal demand means it is hard to establish whether there was an overall rise or fall in the country’s CO2 emissions in 2022. This difference could have global implications for action on climate change.

Whether the official coal data for 2022 is correct or not, the country moved further off track against its near-term targets for carbon and energy intensity. These targets from China’s 14th five-year plan, first published in 2021, aim to cut the amount of energy and CO2 associated with each unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

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CarbonBrief, 15 Feb 2023: Analysis: Contradictory coal data clouds China’s CO2 emissions ‘rebound’ in 2022