China has emitted roughly a billion more tons of carbon emissions a year over the past 15 years than it previously said, according to a report from The New York Times.
The outlet analyzed energy statistics data from China's statistical agency and found the Asian country has been burning up to 17 percent more coal than the government has disclosed. That figure translates into the entire fossil fuel emissions of Germany over a full year.
China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter, and pollution is a huge issue in the nation. Most of the country's major cities failed to meet basic air quality standards in 2014, and some studies have estimated thousands of deaths are attributed to air pollution every day. One study found that northern Chinese lived five fewer years than people from the south because of the effects of pollution in the north.
“It turns out that it was an even bigger emitter than we imagined," former Chinese energy official Yang Fuqiang told the Times. "This helps to explain why China’s air quality is so poor, and that will make it easier to get national leaders to take this seriously."
The country has pledged to cut back emissions by 2030, and Beijing said it would end the use of coal 10 years prior to that. But the most recent data shows China has been underreporting coal pollution since 2000, reported the Times, citing statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The news comes one month ahead of December's highly anticipated climate summit in Paris. Hundreds of world leaders and scientists are expected to work out a strategy to tackle climate change, and many are looking toward big polluters including China, India, Russia and the United States.
President Barack Obama spoke with President Xi Jinping about the issue during the Chinese leader's visit to the U.S. in September. They released a joint statement with firm goals to reduce emissions in the coming years, which they said shows "the determination of both countries to act decisively to achieve the goals set last year."
French President François Hollande also used a visit to China this week to engage the country on climate issues ahead of the Paris talks, The Guardian reported. The nations agreed that climate talk participants should be subject to checks to see whether they're meeting their commitments, the French president said.
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