Methane emissions from coal mining in China have continued to increase since 2010 despite government regulations attempting to curb them. The findings are published in Nature Communications this week.
The coal sector contributes the highest fraction of China’s anthropogenic methane emissions (about 33%). In 2010, the national government enacted a policy requiring that companies either utilize or flare (burn gas released during the mining process) methane drained from coal mines to reduce emissions. China’s twelfth Five Year Plan specified that 5.6 teragrams (5,600,000,000 kilograms) of methane, produced from coal mining should be utilized by 2015. Targets for 2020 are even more ambitious.
Scot Miller and colleagues estimated methane emissions from China using satellite data from between 2010 and 2015. The authors found that emissions rose by 1.1 teragrams (1,100,000,000 kilograms) of methane per year, and that emissions were continuing to follow a business-as-usual scenario. Furthermore, coal production in China continued to increase while cattle counts and rice production remained relatively flat during the study period. The authors argue that China’s regulations and initiatives have not produced a detectable flattening or decline in methane emissions. They conclude that it is unlikely China met its ambitious regulatory goals for 2015.