China’s Bold Carbon Pledge to Set up an Annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory

China has been responsible for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor to climate change. But the country has come a long way in acknowledging the climate crisis and working towards reducing carbon emissions. Just recently, China’s carbon pledge is to take annual inventory of its emissions, which is a huge step in boosting its carbon trading capability and meeting climate targets.

As part of its efforts to halt the rise in emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, China’s cabinet aims to compile an annual national greenhouse gas inventory. This will involve regular reporting and monitoring of China’s greenhouse gas emissions which will help identify areas to focus on for emissions reduction.

China is the world’s largest annual greenhouse gas emitter. In 2020, it emitted 12.3bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e), amounting to 27% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the CAIT database maintained by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Until now, China has not provided annual updates of its greenhouse gas emissions, but it has been submitting figures to the United Nations (UN) every five years. An annual inventory will give us a more accurate understanding of how emissions are changing year on year and what countries are progressing towards climate targets.

“There’s a real practical upgrade needed… outside of the energy and industrial sectors,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “But of course if China can do reporting every five years, it can report every year as well.”

China’s latest official inventory, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the end of last year, measured greenhouse gas emissions at 11.55 billion tons with carbon dioxide accounting for over 80% of the total. This is a huge amount of emissions, and in line with the Paris Agreement, China has pledged to work towards reducing emissions. Its annual inventory will be a crucial tool to track the progress of greenhouse gas reductions more effectively, setting clearer targets, and taking action in the most significant emissions sources.

China is one of the largest emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and its tracking remains a significant challenge. China has acknowledged this data gap and is working on improving the integrity of its statistics and bringing them in line with international standards.

Methane is mainly produced from the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and gas, which continue to be the country’s primary source of energy. Logging methane emissions accurately will be a challenging task but a critical part of China’s efforts to curb its contribution to climate change.

The data from the annual inventory will be essential to help China set a proper carbon market, as the country is aiming to strengthen its carbon trading capacity under the national carbon market scheme. The carbon trading scheme will be the world’s largest and will play a vital role in achieving the country’s carbon neutrality goal.

The annual inventory will provide a necessary understanding of the emissions in different sectors, including power, cement, and iron and steel, which will enable market entities to improve business and trade.

China’s pledged annual greenhouse gas inventory is an important step in the transition to carbon neutrality. An annual inventory will give us a more accurate understanding of how emissions are changing year on year and will be a crucial tool to tracking progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The inventory data will also help China build its carbon market and boost its carbon trading capability. China’s ambitious move demonstrates its continued commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, and it should inspire other countries to take concrete action towards combating climate change.