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Reproduced from Rhodium Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

One complicated dimension of the unfolding coronavirus tragedy is what it ultimately means for carbon emissions in China, by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Driving the news: A Rhodium Group analysis shows China's emissions grew by another 2.6% last year.

  • But now the curtailment of travel and industrial activity due to COVID-19 has led to steep declines this year. How much they will bounce back is unclear, Rhodium finds.

What's next: Analysts are keeping their eyes peeled for signs of what the Chinese government's economic stimulus measures will look like.

  • A "property and construction-heavy" package could increase cement and steel production, Rhodium finds. That scenario increases the economy's carbon intensity — that is, emissions per unit of economic output — as coal's market share rises for a time.
  • "If stimulus resources are directed towards non-fossil sources of energy production, the opposite could occur. What does this all mean? Essentially, it’s just too soon to tell," they conclude.

A separate new analysis of China's energy sector and economy by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies similarly finds: "[T]he focus on COVID-19 has slowed progress on other policy priorities including environmental policies and liberalisation, and a strong fossil-fuel heavy stimulus would further delay them."

By the numbers: "Coal consumption by the six largest power plants in China has fallen over 40% since the last quarter of 2019," Rhodium notes.

  • Their analysis also cites a recent estimate by the climate news and analysis site Carbon Brief, which found that in the four weeks after the Chinese New Year, China's CO2 emissions likely fell by 25%.

Go deeper

Exclusive: Topography charts new trial path

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Topography Health landed $21.5 million in Series A funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, Axios has learned exclusively.

  • The New York and Los Angeles-based startup aims to carve a niche in the clinical trials landscape by engaging community physicians with a plug-and-play trials platform.

Why it matters: The clinical trials landscape is dominated by a few expensive and slow-moving studies run largely by elite, hard-to-access academic medical centers.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

52 mins ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.