China's greenhouse gas emission cut by 25% temporarily because of coronavirus

As the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter accounting for approximately 27% of global GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF), China’s actions both at home and abroad have an enormous impact on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

China has policies in place to reach the targets set in its NDC. If reached, they would result in GHG emission levels of roughly 13.7–18.4 GtCO2e/yr in 2030. With their current policies, China’s greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise until at least 2030, although the rate of increase is projected to slow towards the end of the 2020s.


 While scientists have found that the coronavirus has wiped out at least a quarter of China’s greenhouse gas emission in the past two weeks temporarily. It is because of the virus, China reducing industrial working hours and keeping construction sites and shops closed has curbed the use of coal and cut output of steel products in the country.

COVID-19 is first emerged in December 2019, when a mysterious illness was reported in Wuhan, China. The cause of the disease was soon confirmed as a new kind of coronavirus, and the infection has spread to many countries around the world. Currently /28th of Feb, 2020/, COVID-19 has infected 83,000 people in every continent except Antarctica and caused 2,800 deaths.

Sources: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University; National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China; local governments. Data as of 6:10 a.m. E.T., Feb. 27.


Every winter, during Chinese New Year, the country closes down for a week, with shops and construction sites closing and most industries winding down operations. The holiday has a significant short-term impact on energy demand, industrial output and emissions.

Yet, this year, due to the COVID-19, coal consumption in China has been low for more than 30 days including Chinese New Year. The graphic below compares the coal consumption of six major power firms in China with the 2014-2020 year of Lunar New Year. The blue lines on the chart below show how coal-fired power generation typically drops by an average of 50% in the 10 days following the eve of Chinese New Year. This year, shown in red, the usual fall in energy use has been prolonged by 20 days so far excluding Lunar New Year.

But environmentalists have warned that the reduction is temporary, and that a government stimulus, if directed at ramping up production among heavy polluters, could reverse the environmental gains. "After the coronavirus calms down, it is quite likely we will observe a round of so-called 'retaliatory pollutions' - factories maximizing production to compensate for their losses during the shutdown period," said Li Shuo, a policy adviser for Greenpeace China.