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Breathing toxic air? Thank China, if this report is to be believed

For a country like China, reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases emission is a big challenge. While China is struggling to reduce dirty energy consumption, the world is paying the price in the form of toxic air.

The world leaders and diplomats have been discussing ways to reduce carbon emissions during the Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26) at Glasgow, Scotland. Meanwhile, a report in Bloomberg showed how China is contributing to the increase of toxins in the air more than any country across the globe.

China Baowu, world’s top steelmaker released more carbon dioxide in air last year than Pakistan put together. Similarly, one of the subsidiaries of state-owned Sinopec Group contributed more to global warming than Canada.

Even as China’s President Xi Jinping has promised to zero out emissions by 2060, a study published by Rhodium Group in 2019 suggests that the Chinese companies emit greenhouse gases more than all developed companies combined. If China wants to keep the promise they have made, the major Chinese companies would have to make a major shift from dirty energy to clean energy.

One must keep in mind that the large Chinese companies would not be a party to the negotiations put on the table by world leaders and diplomats with the backing of the United Nations. In this case, the gigantic state-run companies that are playing a major role in global warming will keep adding greenhouses gases to the environment unless the Chinese government itself take some drastic steps to control it.

Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), said, “Emissions of numerous state-owned enterprises in the power, steel, cement, oil refining, and other major emitting sectors are equal to those of entire nations. Once these enterprises align their investments and business plans with the emissions-neutrality target, they can make an enormous contribution, if they choose to.”

Greenhouse gases emission by the manufacturing sector. Source: bloomberg

CREA, a Finland-based environmental research group, has noted down some of the largest emitters from China based on the available public data, including coal use and manufacturing capacity. The estimated CREA presented in their research also includes emissions from company operations and the amount of electricity they use.

The major polluters include many large companies. The biggest culprit is the petroleum industry in China. Petro China Company Limited is responsible for 881 Million Metric tons of CO2 emissions, while China Petroleum and Chemical Corp emit 733 Million metric tons of CO2, which is equal to Vietnam, South Korea, Spain and Canada combined.

Contribution of petrochemical industries in greenhouse emissions. Source: Bloomberg

Thermal plants in China are responsible for around 900 million metric tons of CO2 combined. The steel industry of China emits over 750 Million metric tons of CO2. Bloomberg noted, “China Baowu, the world’s top steelmaker, put more CO2 into the atmosphere last year than Pakistan.” With 158 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, SAIC Motor Corp’s CO2 emission is equal to that of Argentina.

While China says it is trying to curb the emissions, it does not look like the manufacturing giant would start controlling the emissions anytime before 2026. It is noteworthy that in China, solar and wind power are much cheaper compared to fossil fuels. While the world is adopting electric vehicles, China is the leader in both electric vehicle manufacturing and battery technology. But the emissions currently are on the rise instead of slowing down.

The six sectors that China must work on to reduce emissions

Power: China has to shut down thousands of coal-powered plants and dramatically increase the production of clean energy. While China is building a 100 GW solar plant in the desert, it must be kept in mind that the state-owned firms have proposed 43 new coal-based powerhouses. Some of the top polluters in the sector include Huaneng Group Co., Huadian Corp., China Energy Investment Corp., State Power Investment Corp, and Datang Co.

Steel: The report suggests that 21% of coal burnt in China is linked to the steel industry. In the last decade, the emissions by this sector have increased by 40% despite energy consumption to produce steel has significantly fallen. While Chinese companies are trying to shift to clean energy, it would take notable time to completely eliminate dirty energy from the sector.

Constructions: 30% of the total emissions come from this sector in China as the nation is building skyscrapers and expanding cities at a record pace. There are ways to control the emissions in the construction sector, but it will greatly impact the economy of the country.

Petrochemical: This sector is not only responsible for the onsite emissions but also off-site emissions as fuel produced by this sector are used in vehicles and power generation. As steps taken by companies alone would not be enough to control emissions, according to Luxi Hong of BloombergNEF, “China’s oil companies will also have to develop new business opportunities that help them shift away from fossil fuels.”

Transportation: China uses more than half of its oil in transportation. While passenger vehicles are easy to convert to electric, the main issue remains with the trucks, trains, aeroplanes etc.

Agriculture: As food processing is all mechanized, the energy consumption in the agriculture sector has surpassed the fertilizer industry. On the other hand, China is the world’s largest pork consumer.

According to CREA, the top five pig-breeding companies together raise over 45 million pigs that produce 14 million tons of CO₂ equivalent greenhouse gases, and this is only 10% of the total pigs raised across China.

For a country like China, reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases emission is a big challenge. While China is struggling to reduce dirty energy consumption, the world is paying the price in the form of toxic air.

 

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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