By Gemma Childe on 15th Jun 2012
Carbon emissions from China are nearly 20 per cent higher than previously estimated, according to a study.
Official Chinese data has been reanalysed, suggesting that global climate change could be moving at a faster pace than previously thought.
The country is the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter, having already overshadowed the United States. A quarter of mankind's carbon pollution is produced in China.
The country is committed to reducing energy intensity - the amount produced per unit of GDP - by 16 per cent over the 2011-2015 period, and carbon intensity by 17 percent.
Its statistics on energy use are used to calculate how the planet's climate will change, helping to plan for more extremes of drought, flood and the impact on crops, but there have been doubts about the data's quality.
The team of scientists from China, Britain and the United States, led by Dabo Guan of the University of Leeds, studied two sets of energy data from China's National Bureau of Statistics. One set presented energy use for the nation, the other for its provinces.
According to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions grew 7.5 per cent annually from 1997 to reach 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010.
The scientists said differences in reported coal consumption and processing at the provincial level were the main contributors to the inconsistency in energy statistics.
Yang Fuqiang, a former Chinese energy official and senior adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, said: "I would say the biggest concern about the accuracy and reliability of (China's emissions) data is coal - and that comes from too many small coal mines supplying small enterprises and industrial plants. They have no monitoring systems and generally speaking, they are also avoiding tax.”
With provinces now under pressure to meet targets, they are now likely to underestimate emissions, he added.