Chinese methane emissions are rising at an alarming rate despite recent government regulations aimed at curbing the climate-changing pollutant, a new report has revealed.
A study released in the journal Nature on Tuesday shows a steady growth in China’s methane emissions, primarily from the country’s massive coal mining sector, undermining Beijing’s claims to be leading the world on climate change action.
“Methane emissions in China appear to be increasing, business as usual. We were unable to detect any impact of regulations on the country’s methane emissions,” the report’s lead researcher Scot M. Miller told CNN.
China is among the world’s largest emitters of methane. While methane is less prevalent in the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it traps “28 times more heat” according to the Global Carbon Project.
In 2010 the Chinese government enacted a series of new polices requiring methane from coal mining to be captured, or to be converted into carbon dioxide.
But scientists found that the policies had failed to curb overall emissions.
Using data from Japanese satellites collected between 2010 and 2010, the study found China’s annual methane emissions increased by 50% for at least five years after government regulations were passed in 2010. The jump is equivalent to the total emissions of other large nations such as Russia and Brazil.
“China has had great ambitions for capturing that methane and using it for electricity production or heating buildings, but what we found is that there’s little evidence that they’ve been able to meet those ambitions,” Miller told CNN.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal. The country’s continued reliance on the fossil fuel has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.
President Xi Jinping has placed a huge emphasis on tackling pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in his second term in office, making it one of his “three battles” in 2017.
State-run media has been making a big show of broadcasting punishments against officials caught violating environmental laws, with 32 people detained in November after inspections of ten provinces.
In fact, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change agreement in 2017, questions were raised over whether Beijing was now the leading nation on tackling climate change.
Asked about China’s climate change commitments in November, Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate change special envoy, said it was the country’s responsibility to deliver on their promises “to protect humanity and the earth.”
“By the end of 2017, China’s carbon intensity had already fallen by 46%, meaning that it has achieved its goal three years ahead of schedule. Renewable energy already accounts for 13.8% of primary energy consumption and will surely meet the goal of 15% by 2020,” Xie said.
Miller conceded that his research only extended to 2015, meaning that stricter regulations enforced by Xi may yet to be reflected in the data.
“In terms of methane, China’s emissions are so much larger than any other country that anything they could do to mitigate their emissions could have a substantial impact on overall methane levels in the atmosphere,” he said.