China launches campaign to close greenhouse gas monitoring gaps

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A surveillance camera is seen near a coal-fired power plant in Shanghai, China October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

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BEIJING, Jan 19 (Reuters) – China will require major industrial sectors and regions to take action to measure greenhouse gas emissions under a new initiative to improve data quality and monitoring, according to an Environment Ministry document reviewed by Reuters.

Under the pilot program, some of China’s largest coal-fired power providers, steel mills, and oil and gas producers are to develop new comprehensive greenhouse gas monitoring plans by the end of This year.

It comes as China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, must strengthen its measurement of carbon emissions in line with its monitoring of air pollutants to meet President Xi Jinping’s pledge to become carbon neutral d by around 2060, according to experts and environmentalists.

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“Unlike air pollutants, there is a major gap in CO2 emissions reporting – there is no regular report in place that would disclose the country’s total emissions,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior analyst at the Center for energy research based in Helsinki. and Clean Air (CREA).

“Expanding the emissions monitoring and reporting currently in place for CO2 air pollutants would be a huge step forward.”

After successfully curbing the sweltering smog that shrouds many Chinese industrial cities during winter, the State Council, China’s cabinet, has already pledged to expand restrictions on pollutants such as volatile organic compounds ( VOCs), nitrogen oxides and heavy metal waste. Read more

That will require more real-time environmental monitoring stations and advanced technologies that can detect a wider range of emissions and catch companies trying to cheat, officials and environmentalists said.

But the gaping coverage gap on carbon dioxide emissions could prove the biggest challenge. So far, China has largely relied on proxy indicators – including energy consumption – to measure CO2, falling behind countries in Europe.

According to the guidance document, dated September 2021 and provided to Reuters by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), the new monitoring program aims to provide “statistical support” to the country’s fight against climate change.

Cities like Tangshan and Hangzhou, as well as regions like Inner Mongolia and Yunnan, have also been ordered to assess their ability to act as carbon sinks, including rates of forest cover and changes in climate. land use.

The pilot program, which is expected to complete in the first three months of 2023, is designed to assess best practices for measuring greenhouse gases. It will include the oil and gas, steel and thermal energy sectors, as well as waste treatment, and will cover key gases such as methane as well as carbon dioxide.

State-owned companies involved in the pilot program – including China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec), China National Petroleum Corp and Shandong Energy Corp – did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

REAL-TIME MONITORING

About 23,000 of China’s top polluters are now connected to a nationwide real-time emissions monitoring system that measures air pollutants like sulfur dioxide or ammonia in water, although this is still only of a fraction of the millions of factories across the country that require monitoring.

Accurate measurement of carbon emissions has also become increasingly important to China’s plans to develop its national emissions trading system (ETS), which currently covers the electricity sector but will be subsequently extended to other sectors.

“When it comes to emissions controls, cap and trade, and all the other issues like carbon pricing – all of that has to be based on hard data, otherwise it won’t make sense,” Ma said. Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a nongovernmental organization focused on environmental monitoring.

The launch of the first phase of the ETS has been repeatedly delayed partly due to data quality issues.

Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan has estimated that sales of environmental monitoring devices in China will surpass 102 billion yuan ($16 billion) in 2023, four times the 2014 level.

But until now, there was no legal obligation for companies to measure greenhouse gases.

IPE’s Ma said CO2 monitoring would be costly for companies, but was essential to ensure the levels of compliance required by green finance and carbon trading.

“When it comes to emissions trading, you have to be extremely specific,” he said, noting that companies need to be able to determine precisely how many credits to buy.

“Any slight change in parameters or emission factors could mean a difference of hundreds of millions of yuan.”

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Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Florence Tan and Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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