China’s Carbon Emissions Soar As Biden Unveils Crackdown On American Power Plants
Joe Biden Xi Jinping
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Carbon dioxide emissions in China soared to a record high in the first quarter of this year even as the Biden administration moves to crack down on emissions at American power plants.

China witnessed a 4.0% year-over-year increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the first three months of 2023 relative to the same period in 2022, exceeding the previous peak in the first three months of 2021, according to a Friday analysis from Carbon Brief. The phenomenon was driven by the continued rollback of lockdowns in China and a concurrent economic rebound.

New emissions occurred as a result of a 5.5% increase in oil consumption, a 3.6% increase in coal consumption, and a 1.4% increase in natural gas consumption. The largest factor behind the increased fuel use was the power sector, especially as a result of higher reliance on coal.

Officials in China indeed approved the equivalent of two new large coal plants every week last year, according to an analysis from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. Elevated worldwide energy prices, which stem from persistent supply chain bottlenecks and disruptions from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have pressed a number of countries toward burning additional coal, which is dirtier but also less expensive in comparison to other energy sources.

China was responsible for 26.1% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018, according to data from the International Energy Agency, surpassing the 13.4% of worldwide emissions produced by the United States and the 7.6% of worldwide emissions produced by members of the European Union. Critics of governments which encourage a transition toward renewable energy have observed that increased carbon emissions from China, as well as India and developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, are outpacing emissions declines in the West.

News of the increased emissions in China comes shortly after the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new rules that will force coal and natural gas power plants in the United States to decrease their emissions, a move which the agency said would “require ambitious reductions in carbon pollution based on proven and cost-effective control technologies.”

Coal and natural gas plants account for 60% of power generation in the United States, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Higher consumption of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, has enabled the nation to decrease emissions in recent years.

Officials at the EPA claimed that the regulations would produce “climate and public health benefits” worth $85 billion over the next two decades, as well as prevent premature deaths and hospital visits as a result of decreased particulate matter emissions. The new standards, which had been widely expected for weeks before their public release on Thursday, prompted West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to announce that he would oppose every EPA nominee from the White House until the rules are reversed.


“This administration is determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made it clear they are hellbent on doing everything in their power to regulate coal and gas-fueled power plants out of existence, no matter the cost to energy security and reliability,” the centrist lawmaker remarked in a statement. “This piles on top of a broader regulatory agenda being rolled out designed to kill the fossil industry by a thousand cuts.”

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