China is falling short on key emissions targets as it prioritizes national security over U.N. climate commitments. It is well behind on its goal to cut energy intensity by 13.5 percent and carbon intensity by 18 percent between 2021 and 2025. The intensity rates – measuring how much energy is consumed and how much carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic growth – are a key part of the country’s pledge to bring emissions to a peak before 2030 and to net zero by 2060. While the planning commission set targets for 2024 mandating a 2.5 percent reduction for energy intensity, it did not set a new target for carbon intensity and did not move to reduce coal consumption. In fact, it is building new coal plants at home and around the world that can operate 4 or 5 decades or more—well past 2060—the date of its net zero pledge. China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions – emitting over twice the U.S. level — and if it keeps emitting at today’s levels or higher, what the rest of the world does will be insignificant.

As such, President Biden would do well to learn from China’s behavior because Biden’s regulations and forced electrification are crippling the U.S. energy grid with intermittent wind and solar power and electricity demands that could double or even quintuple from today’s levels. His climate policies are also benefitting China’s manufacturing sector as its leads in the manufacture or processing of most areas of the energy transition—EV batteries, critical minerals and their processing, solar panels, polysilicon, etc.

China’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions 

China’s total energy consumption increased by 5.7 percent in 2023–the first time since at least 2005 that energy demand has grown faster than GDP. China’s economic growth during and after the COVID lockdowns has been energy- and carbon-intensive. Carbon dioxide emissions grew at an average of 3.8 percent per year in 2021 to 2023, up from 0.9 percent a year in 2016 to 2020, while GDP growth slowed from an average of 5.7 percent to 5.4 percent. However, in 2023, carbon dioxide emissions increased by 5.2 percent – at the same rate as GDP – as the country’s utilities burned more coal (6 percent more) to satisfy its growing electricity demand. Adverse weather conditions added to the problem as a series of droughts pushed hydropower production to its lowest levels in over two decades.

China’s oil consumption also rose in 2023 by 8 percent. The increase in oil consumption represents a rebound from the slow demand growth during zero-COVID and a drop of 4 percent in 2022. Gas consumption rebounded as prices came down a bit from 2022 highs.

The “clean” energy manufacturing boom also played a role in driving carbon dioxide emissions, due to the energy-intensive processes involved in the production of solar PV and batteries, in particular. Approximately one percentage-point of carbon dioxide emission growth is attributed to these sectors, based on output data and emission intensities estimated for solar PVelectric vehicles and batteries. Without the clean technology manufacturing boom made possible by governments attempting to meet their Paris commitments, China’s carbon dioxide emissions would have grown by around 4.2 percent, instead of the 5.2 percent.

China’s Climate Targets

As the world’s biggest carbon emitter and second-largest economy, China is being pressured to do more to limit emissions. But it has resisted, arguing that it is already doing more than most fast-developing countries. China’s rising emissions account for 35 percent of the world’s annual total. On a per capita basis, the emissions level is 15 percent higher per capita than the OECD average. Some say that China should focus on efficiency improvements in industry and construction, and offer more financial support for companies to replace or retrofit outdated facilities, as well as expand its carbon trading market, but China is pursuing its own interests.

According to China’s statistics bureau, China’s energy intensity fell 0.5 percent in 2023, missing a 2 percent reduction target. Last month, China changed its intensity calculation that would have shown an increase in intensity. It removed non-fossil fuels such as nuclear and renewable energy from the equation to focus on fossil fuels—a change it is applying retroactively. Without the change, the energy intensity calculation would have shown an increase of 0.5 percent. To meet the 2021-2025 intensity target, China would have to cut energy intensity by 6 percent in 2024 and 2025 – far higher than the new 2.5 percent goal. Although China set no new targets for carbon intensity, the country’s economic growth implies the measure will fall about 3 percent this year. After dropping 4.6 percent from 2020 to 2023, carbon intensity would need to drop about 7 percent this year and next to reach the 2025 goal.

Missing climate targets is unusual for China, which has made job promotions contingent on environmental progress to encourage workers and agencies to meet goals. In 2022, China’s corruption watchdog warned that some regions were providing fraudulent energy and carbon intensity figures that were overly positive. Pressure to comply with intensity targets also caused economic disruptions in 2010, with provinces cutting power supplies to energy-intensive industries and forcing homes to ration electricity. That, however, was under Chinese President Hu Jintao, rather than today’s Xi Jinping.

China’s 2025 Climate Commitments and Targets in the Energy Sector

Source: Carbon Brief

The Energy Transition Is Not Working

Despite spending trillions of dollars on “clean” energy worldwide, the world is still largely dependent on fossil fuels. Last year, 83 percent of global energy came from oil, natural gas and coal with total energy consumption hitting a new record. Carbon dioxide emissions also rose. It appears that China will not be alone in missing key climate targets.

Source: JP Morgan


The world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, China, is missing key targets toward meeting its commitments to the Paris Climate Accord. China has stated that national security comes before its climate targets and is continuing to build coal plants to meet increasing electricity demand. Its manufacturing sector needs affordable and reliable electricity to make the “clean” technologies that Western countries need for their energy transition.  China will ensure that it has the energy resources needed for its economy to grow and to provide its citizens with a comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile, the world is still dependent on fossil fuels for 83 percent of its energy needs after politicians have spent trillions of dollars for politically acceptable technologies. President Biden is fooling himself if he thinks that continuing to pour money into his climate policies and to force regulations on businesses will make the United States meet his climate goals or somehow convince China to reduce emissions. 

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