Smoke is seen emmiting from a funnel from a thermal power plant on a hazy day on the outskirts of Beijing, China. (Photo: IC)
An international study has found that China is on track to meet its carbon emissions goals up to one decade early.
China, one of the first countries to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, has pledged to halt the rise in carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030.
Researchers from China's Nanjing University, Tsinghua University, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Harvard University in the U.S. examined carbon dioxide emissions from 50 Chinese cities from 2000 to 2016 and found a close relationship between per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product (GDP).
The 50 Chinese cities account for about 35 percent of China's total carbon emissions and 51 percent of the country's GDP.
According to Wang Haikun with Nanjing University, the leading author of the research, although diverse trajectories of carbon dioxide emissions are seen across the cities, the relationship between emissions and GDP follows the Environmental Kuznets Curve.
The curve means that as economic development growth occurs, the environment will worsen until a certain point where the country reaches a specific average income. Then money is invested back into the environment, and the ecosystem is restored.
The study found that carbon emissions peak for most Chinese cities when GDP reaches about 21,000 U.S. dollars per person.
They then used a computer model to simulate the peak of carbon emissions based on China's historical emissions and the data on future population size and economic development level from the World Bank.
According to the study published as the cover article in the latest online monthly journal Nature Sustainability, the carbon emissions in China should peak between 2021 and 2025, about five to ten years ahead of the Paris target.
The researchers said that cities are the frontline for global climate change action, and there is clear evidence that progress has been made in the Chinese cities.
It reflects China's great efforts in mitigating climate change, said Wang.
The study also pointed out that different types of Chinese cities face different challenges in their carbon emissions reduction timetables.
Cities like Beijing, Xi'an and Hangzhou should focus on upgrading their infrastructure facilities to improve energy efficiency while emerging cities like Xiong'an New Area have the opportunity to leapfrog the period of carbon-intensive growth.
Among the National Determined Contribution that China proposes to achieve by 2030 as part of its Paris Agreement pledge, China has committed to reducing its carbon intensity 60 to 65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, peaking its carbon emissions by 2030, increasing non-fossil-fuel energy to 20 percent of its energy mix, and expanding forested land.