China, with its huge population, emits more greenhouse gases per year than all industrialized countries put together.
But on closer inspection, the situation is complex.
Beijing / Munich - China now emits more greenhouse gases per year than all developed countries put together. In a new study, the US think tank Rhodium Group estimates that China contributed 27 percent to global emissions of climate-damaging carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in 2019 - far more than the US, which came second with eleven percent. According to the calculations, India climbed to third place for the first time with 6.6 percent. There are as many people living there as in China - however, India's level of development is lower. CO2 equivalents are a unit of measurement for standardizing the climate impact of different greenhouse gases that do not contribute to the greenhouse effect to the same extent and remain in the atmosphere for different periods of time.
According to the study presented on Friday, China's emissions have tripled since 1990.
1990 is the base year to which the emission reduction targets in Europe refer.
At this point, however, China was significantly less developed than the EU - so the increase is not surprising.
In the past decade, China's emissions rose 25 percent, according to the Rhodium Group.
China has pledged that its emissions will peak "before 2030".
After that it should go downhill.
China: Top in absolute numbers - the USA emits the most greenhouse gases per capita
The fact that today's emerging country China leads in absolute numbers is not really surprising, as around a fifth of humanity lives there. But other variables also count: emissions per capita and historically accumulated emissions. And China is not at the top here.
The approximately 1.4 billion people in China emit 10.1 tons per capita, which is slightly below the level of people in the countries of the industrialized countries organization OECD - including Europe and the USA - at 10.5 tons. The USA continues to be the lone leader in terms of per capita emissions: individual Americans contribute much more to global warming than individual Chinese, at 17.6 tons per year. However, the study indicates that per capita emissions in China are likely to have risen in 2020 - because greenhouse gas emissions there have increased by around 1.7 percent. In most other countries, however, emissions have decreased due to the corona pandemic.
Since greenhouse gases remain in the earth's atmosphere for hundreds of years, historical - or cumulative - emissions are another important variable. Because global warming is the result of the new greenhouse gases that have accumulated there for a long time. According to the Rhodium Group, China is “still a long way from surpassing the historical contributions made by industrialized countries to the greenhouse effect since 1750.
According to the rhodium study, worldwide emissions climbed to 52 tons of CO2 equivalents in 2019 - an increase of 11.4 percent over the past decade.
The Paris climate agreement stipulates that global warming should remain well below two degrees.
Climate activists like Fridays for Future are calling for a target of 1.5 degrees.
The earth has already warmed up by around 1.2 degrees - compared to pre-industrial times.
Experts therefore agree that much more needs to be done around the world by 2030 to achieve the Paris climate targets.
At the World Climate Conference in Glasgow in November, all 200 contract partners are to sharpen their climate targets and measures.
Many states are currently negotiating this behind the scenes - including China.
China: Xi Jinping announces climate neutrality by 2060
China's President Xi Jinping has announced that China will be carbon neutral by 2060. From 2025, China will reduce coal consumption, Xi also recently announced at the US President Joe Biden's climate summit. Environmental experts in China emphasize how difficult this will be for the country. Coal makes up 60 percent of the energy mix; many coal provinces are resisting cuts in the raw material. Xi's promises given to the whole world therefore put something into the hands of the government in the struggle with the provinces. This may be the way to scrutinize some of the provincial permits issued for new coal-fired power plants.
China is also a world leader in the installation of solar and wind power systems.
According to the new plans of the National Energy Agency (NEA), the share of wind and solar energy in electricity consumption is to increase from 9.7 percent in 2020 to 16.5 percent in 2025.
In addition, some regions are moving faster on CO2e.
Shanghai, for example, wants to reach the emission peak for greenhouse gases as early as 2025.
The metropolis announced an action plan to save energy and reduce emissions in key sectors such as energy and chemistry.
Solar modules on a mountain range in the Shanxi province: China leads not only in coal - but also in solar energy
© Sam McNeil / AP / dpa
"Xi has made low-carbon development a strategic priority for China," writes Lauri Myllyvirta, China expert at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, in
. "He has very good reasons to act: food security, water resources and the regional security environment - all of which are key strategic elements - would be threatened by advancing climate change." In view of the USA's renewed leadership role, China definitely does not want to fall behind in terms of climate change advised, so Myllyvirta. A competition between the US and China for the best climate policy can only be useful for the world. (ck / with dpa)