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What can we learn about effectiveness of carbon reduction policies from interannual variability of fossil fuel CO2 emissions in East Asia?

Labzovskii, Lev D., Mak, Hugo Wai Leung, Takele Kenea, Samuel, Rhee, Jae-Sang, Lashkari, Azam, Li, Shanlan, Goo, Tae-Young, Oh, Young-Suk, Byun, Young-Hwa
Environmental science & policy 2019 v.96 pp. 132-140
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, carbon, case studies, cement, coal, compliance, emissions, environmental policy, environmental science, power generation, China, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea
Although most countries have submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), there is a lack of understanding what policies are effective in terms of carbon emission reduction under the announced pledges. We use East Asia as a case study to estimate the importance of national environmental policies in terms of reduction in fossil fuel carbon emissions (FFCO2). We show that the flagship policies of China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia in the 2010s were generally beneficial in terms of slowing down FFCO2 growth rates. When flagship polices were enacted, annual FFCO2 growth rate has either slowed down by 1% (South Korea), 5% (Mongolia), 8% (China) or even resulted in a decline (Japan) comparing to prior periods. We find that the 12th Five-Year Plan (12th FYP) of China had the strongest footprint in FFCO2 emission dynamics across East Asia in 2010s. The recent slowest rate of FFCO2 growth across East Asia (2011–2015) temporally corresponds to the 12th FYP. This regional pattern of FFCO2 dynamics is driven by decrements in annual growth of FFCO2, coal use and cement production of China (all ˜8% per yer decrease) during the 12th FYP. Using compound periodical growth of FFCO2 emissions, we provide two baseline projections of emission distribution in East Asia, by assuming that all policies are enacted (policy-on) or not (policy-off) in the future. The projections show that policies were beneficial since policy-on scenario results in 24%, 80%, 166% less FFCO2 emissions than in policy-off scenario in East Asia by 2020, 2025 and 2030 respectively. This progress is yet insufficient for reaching NDC goals by 2030. Even in policy-on scenario in 2030, East Asian countries would either experience insufficient decline of FFCO2 like Japan (-13% of FFCO2 comparing to pledged -17%) or increase of FFCO2 like South Korea (11%) and Mongolia (4%) comparing to 2010 level. For China, due to lack of economy-independent goals, we were unable to assess NDC target compliance. We demonstrate that China will remain as the major FFCO2 emitter of EA in near future in any projection. For China, the highest emission cluster will remain at the Eastern Provinces with the strongest power generation demand. These provinces would be responsible for 43% and 52% of FFCO2 emissions in East Asia in policy-off and policy-on scenarios. We concluded that the current efforts of national flagship environmental policies are beneficial but not sufficient for reaching ambitious carbon reduction goals like Paris Agreement. This study once again underlined the necessity in the supranational framework that may control the carbon abatement goals in East Asia. Without the supranational framework, achievements in carbon emission reductions are strongly hindered by the socioeconomic environment and the regional (or sectoral) emphasis of carbon reduction activities within a national economy.