China's greenhouse gas emissions have been in decline since last year but have not yet reached their peak, with the country's policies still not fully aligned with long-term goals to limit temperature increases, a research report says.
China produces almost one third of the world's annual carbon emissions and its success in meeting its climate targets "is possibly the single most important factor in the global fight against climate change", the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said after assessing emissions data and surveying 26 Chinese energy experts.
While China had made "remarkable achievements" in areas like clean energy and electric vehicles, the report said it remained "off track" in coal-fired power, iron and steel.
Energy consumption, driven by heavy industrial economic growth, was still growing too fast to meet climate goals.
Global climate talks ended on Sunday with a commitment to establish a fund to help the most vulnerable nations but countries failed to reach a consensus on bringing global emissions to a peak by 2025.
China is expected to meet its own 2030 peak emissions target with relative ease but experts worry the overall volume could still rise significantly during the decade as Beijing builds new coal plants and other carbon-intensive infrastructure to address concerns about energy security and economic stability.
The higher the peak, the harder it will be for Beijing to meet its 2060 goal to become carbon neutral, CREA said, adding that it was "crucially important" for China not just to meet but to significantly exceed targets.
This month, an annual report by the Global Carbon Project (GBP) estimated China's emissions would fall by 0.9 per cent in 2022, raising hopes they have already peaked.
However, the decline was attributed to the country's draconian zero-COVID-19 policies, which severely disrupted the economy and saw the financial centre of Shanghai locked down for more than two months.
"They will go up," said Pep Canadell, GCP's executive director and one of the authors of the report.
"Over the coming years, we will see growth (in emissions) coming from China before we see stabilisation and eventually decline."