In past articles, we discussed the importance of data monitoring, availability, and quality in order to track emissions developments resulting from policies and required measures introduced by governments.
China has been notoriously lagging in data availability, quality, and reporting. Data must be collected, for example, from companies included in the various Emissions Trading Systems across the country. However, companies are responsible for monitoring and collecting such data. They then often hire specialized third-party providers to vet and report the data. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) has uncovered fraudulent data and irregularities as some third-party providers have been found to massage data for their customers’ benefit. The issue at hand is the loyalty of the service provider to the paying customer. In direct response, the MEE has launched an initiative to oversee and improve the quality of carbon emissions reporting with the power sector being the first targeted industry: governmental working groups are spending ten days or more inspecting each of 264 power firms across ten key cities. This approach’s challenge lies in the specialized skills needed for data reporting and vetting that not all authorities and their staff possess. Further capacity building to carry out efficient control work will be needed in the future.
Aware of the need for better monitoring, reporting, and vetting of data, the Chinese government –namely the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) – has in recent months stepped up efforts to improve the situation. In 2021 the MEE initiated several carbon monitoring trials in 16 pilot areas, among them Tangshan, Taiyuan, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nantong, and Panjin, to gain insights on and demonstrate the effectiveness of different monitoring systems. The pilots focus on three levels of carbon monitoring and assessment – regional, city, and key industry.
On the regional level, China seeks to improve integrated monitoring of GHG emissions, annual land use changes, and changes in carbon sequestration systems based on the already existing national air quality monitoring station network and terrestrial remote sensing stations in combination with satellite remote sensing.
On the city level, pilots for atmospheric GHG emissions monitoring and carbon sink effectiveness were established taking into account the energy structure, industrial structure, urbanization level, demographics, and regional distribution among other factors.
On an industrial level, the ministry singled out five key industries – thermal power, iron and steel, oil and gas extraction, coal mining, and waste disposal. These industries were operated by eleven group companies (incl. the National Energy Group, China Baowu Steel, China National Petroleum, Sinopec, and Everbright Environment) – to carry out pilot monitoring projects for greenhouse gas emissions.
In May 2022, the MEE further announced the expansion of the scope of monitoring pilots in the thermal power industry. The ministry intends to create a carbon monitoring network covering major regions and key cities across the country, and further improve the technical system for carbon monitoring operations.
Concomitant to the pilots, the MEE published in June this year the “Implementation Plan for Synergies in Reducing Pollution and Carbon Emissions”. The document lays out concrete workstreams and responsibilities to achieve targets of integrated environmental pollution and carbon emissions reduction.
In addition to an improved alignment for better efficiency, reinforcing prevention and control at the source, optimizing technical pathways, and the encouragement of pilot implementation; the paper calls for a focus on system innovation with the alignment of laws, regulations, standards, and policy systems playing a role. As well as the improvement of statistical, monitoring, and regulatory capacity to improve overall pollution and carbon emissions reduction management. The policy has defined expected outcomes for 2025 and 2030. By 2025, they expect to have set up an aligned framework that covers both environmental pollution and carbon emissions reductions, including having set up the necessary structure in key regions and achieved replicable models for further green development. By 2030, these measures should have resulted in a carbon peak; significant results will be achieved in the synergistic promotion of carbon peak and air quality.
The package of measures includes improved standard setting as well as research into better monitoring and data quality control systems. In order to enhance the basic capacity to track pollution and carbon reduction, the MEE calls for the set-up or improvement of terrestrial and aerial monitoring networks for integrated monitoring, an improved mechanism for statistical surveying, accounting and verification, and regulatory systems for emission sources, national greenhouse gas emission inventories, and a greenhouse gas emission factor bank.
If monitoring pilots, better mechanisms for collecting, vetting, and monitoring of data as well as capacity building for relevant staff are thoroughly enacted, these efforts hold the potential to remediate a lingering problem: the availability and quality of reported emissions data. The Chinese government would over time be able to consistently track and report on, for example, GHG emissions reduction from company activities, from carbon markets and exchange activities, etc., thus rendering progress tracking of its climate work more efficient.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager: Annette Wiedenbach