China to Close CO2 Emissions Tracking Gap to Achieve 2030 and 2060 Climate Goals with Establishment of Carbon Emissions Statistical Accounting Working Group

China to Close CO2 Emissions Tracking Gap to Achieve 2030 and 2060 Climate Goals with Establishment of Carbon Emissions Statistical Accounting Working Group

Best Organizational Sources: Carbon Emissions Statistical Tracking Group; The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE); The Energy Administration; Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs


At the end of August 2021, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and National Bureau of Statistics set up a Carbon Emission Statistical Accounting Working Group with the target to organize and coordinate nationwide carbon emissions accounting and tracking. Emissions are expected to be tracked across regions and industries with the help of 17 government agencies, six industrial trade groups, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This move will close a gap in the monitoring and tracking system to evaluate China’s progress on its recent climate goals.

While the Chinese government has been increasingly monitoring and publishing environmental data on air, water or soil quality, noise or radiation pollution, marine ecology, CO2 emission data tracking has been limited.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) publishes climate relevant data in its annual “Report on the State of the Ecology and Environment of China”. The report comprises and summarizes information from other relevant ministries such as the Ministries of Natural Resources, Transport, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the China Meteorological Administration. Reports are accessible up to the year 2011 and provide aggregated data on carbon intensity and greenhouse gas concentration during the reference year.

Since the introduction of the Clean Air Quality Standard (环境空气质量标准) in 2012, the MEE has been publishing a monthly air quality report which encompassed 74 cities until mid-2018 and thereafter increased to 339 cities. The air quality index includes SO2, CO, O3, NO2 greenhouse gases as well as PM 2.5 and PM 10 index. It provides and overview of absolute volume of pollutants in the air and the respective changes monthly.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) publishes on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis general economic and demographic data. This includes data on the growth of industrial production to output of various forms of energy as well as trade data for all types of industries operating in China. However, data sets are in some instances incomplete: data on coal production development from 1990 to 2019 lacks data for the year 1994. Data for wind energy becomes only available towards the end of the year 2009. This poses a challenge to establish a timeseries to illustrate changes in energy development. The NBS does not publish data on greenhouse gas or CO2 emissions development. Only the all-encompassing Statistical Yearbook offers aggregate annual data on energy use, GHG emissions in absolute, carbon intensity, and per capita terms and presents the respective changes against the baseline of 2005 and against previous year.

The National Energy Administration publishes press statements with monthly as well as aggregated energy consumption and production numbers. However, this data format seems to have been introduced in 2016 and does not allow for a time series comparison over the past 2 decades.

Data on environmental performance of individual industries such as the chemical or the coal industry can be obtained through the various annual yearbooks of industry associations, like the coal association, or the chemical industry association. Comparability of data and availability of different years varies, however.

The most easily accessible database to track carbon emissions data is provided by the non-profit organization Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), which tracks emissions data from sectoral sources such as enterprises, energy, and transportation. The data is based on the public supervision records for environmental quality, emissions, and pollution by 31 provincial and 337 city governments. In addition, the Blue Map App of IPE also includes information voluntarily disclosed by participating enterprises.

On the academic level, the China Emission Accounts and Datasets (CEADS) draws on research from various academic institutions, such as the University College London and Tsinghua University and is funded among others by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Ministry of Science and Technology of China, Research Councils UK. Their China emission accounts are primarily built upon novel, robust, interdisciplinary, and highly impacted academic research investigating emission sources and drivers, environmental input-output analysis, and policy analysis.

While the above sources provide robust data for the past five to ten years, different starting dates, and varying degrees of maturity with regards to included data and sources, make it difficult to solely rely on these databases for an analysis of past progress. They will remain important for future tracking of progress in reducing emissions across regions, industry, and other sectors.

For more comprehensive information on the change regarding CO2 and equivalent emissions since 1990, non-Chinese sources such as the EIA, EDGAR, or BP annual report provide better data. Much of their estimates are based on the development of energy production and consumption in China, and the concomitant change in the energy mix between coal and solar power, or oil versus wind power.

Quality and reliability of the climate emissions data produced by the country:

Rating: ** Fair

Four Stars (****): Outstanding

Three stars (***): Good

Two stars (**): Fair

One star (*): Poor


The establishment of the Carbon Emission Statistical Accounting Working Group clearly shows that China’s government recognizes this important gap in measuring and tracking progress that is to be made in order to achieve China’s climate goals for 2030 and 2060. Tracking carbon emissions and their sources will also be a crucial success factor for China’s Carbon Emissions Trading System. Collection of reliable data for GHG emissions from companies based on transparent and clear standards will support the ETS to fulfil its aim of reducing carbon emissions in China. To this end, the national registry and the trading platform have been established prior to official start of trading in July 2021. They also provide specific rules governing enterprises’ interaction with these two key institutions. The registry is currently hosting registration for all 2,225 power companies covered by the national ETS.

In addition, there a range of policies on carbon-related information disclosure across China’s provinces. Apart from the pilot carbon markets, five provinces have issued measures on GHG information disclosure. Additionally, the central government is including information disclosure in the key performance indicators of local governments. Therefore, all provinces will report the progress of work on disclosure in their annual reports.

As systems mature and grow over time, we can expect more data transparency to track progress in the future.


Premier Keqiang Li, The State Council

Email (in English):


Minister Huang Runqi (黄润秋部长), Ministry of Ecology and Environment

(in Chinese):

(in English) 


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard China Country Manager Annette Wiedenbach


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