Is China coming around on global warming?

China may be coming around a bit on it’s role in CO2 emissions and global warming.  The giant nation of 1.3 billion people has long cried that it needed to maintain economic development and couldn’t commit to any serious future reductions in CO2 emissions.   In a speech yesterday at the UN, President Hu of China seemed to signal a new willingness to begin to tackle China’s growing role in global warming; “Developing countries need to strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection” .  Without significant participation by China (and India) most plans to curb global CO2 emissions are doomed.  China is now the world’s largest emitter of CO2 – yes, yes, north Americans emit far more per capita and the US is still the 2nd largest national emitter.  But the growth trends and predictions are sobering.


There is a lot of talk on this site about internal Australian plans to reduce emissions.  But from a global perspective, the world’s weather isn’t going to be affected by what Aussies do.   I think the more important question is how would the people and government of Australia feel about a substantial economic slow down in China for the sake of reducing global warming?  The Australian economy is very closely tied to the Chinese economic demand for natural resources.   Would Australia support an agreement at Copenhagen that was against their economic self interest?  What has the Australian govenment done in the past in response to China’s many sins?  e.g., Tiananmen, Tibet, etc.  I am guessing they kept quiet.

From a story last year, when China surpassed the US as the world’s largest emitter of CO2:

China set a new world record this year, surpassing the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 from power generation, according to new data from the Center for Global Development (CGD). But on a per capita basis, U.S. power-sector emissions are still nearly four times those of China.

The data, from the first annual update of CGD’s Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database, show that China accounts for more than half of the increase in global CO2 emissions due to power generation over the past year, mostly due to a surge in construction of new coal-fired plants.

According to the new CARMA data released today, Chinese power plants will produce about 3.1 billion tons of CO2 this year, up from about 2.7 billion tons in 2007. Power plants in the U.S will produce about 2.8 billion tons of CO2 this year, about the same as last year. If all power plants currently planned in China and the U.S. are eventually built, China’s power-related emissions will exceed those of the U.S. by 40 percent, although on a per capita basis the U.S. would still be the far-and-away the larger polluter from power production.

From the NYT

China is no longer pretending that it is a backward country whose need for economic growth relieves it of any obligation to control emissions. The United States — the world’s largest emitter in historical terms — is acknowledging its responsibility to help the poorest and most vulnerable nations reduce emissions without sacrificing growth

In his speech, [yesterday at the UN] President Hu of China said his nation would take four steps toward greener development. He said China would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it emits to produce each dollar of gross domestic product by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared with 2005 levels; increase forests by 40 million hectares (about 98.8 million acres); increase nuclear or nonfossil fuels to 15 percent of power by 2020 and work to develop a green economy.

Analysts gave China credit for taking carbon emissions more seriously. Its leaders now accept the need to reduce pollution, partly because their country is vulnerable environmentally and partly because they hope to become leaders in green technology. But Mr. Hu neither defined “notable” nor accepted any binding cuts on emissions. He also tied the emissions reduction effort to the growth in China’s gross domestic product, so the amount of emissions per dollar of output — or “carbon intensity” — might shrink, but the overall number could still rise as the economy expanded.

“Developing countries need to strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection,” President Hu said.

Todd Stern, the United States envoy for climate change, reflected the general reaction to the Chinese proposal by saying, “That can be good, but it all depends on what the number is.”

And see the full story here and a related the editorial here

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