China Won’t Ape US in CO2 Levels as that Would be “World Disaster”

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If there had to be one country that is going to dominate the 21st century, the carbon-constrained century, make or break for the human race, I am increasingly happy it is China. I think we’ve all lucked out.

The BBC is reporting that China has announced that it will not allow its per capita carbon dioxide emissions to reach the levels found in the US, according to the minister in charge of climate policy.

Xie Zhenhua, vice chair of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that for China, with its billion-plus population, to let its emissions rise as high as the US would be a “disaster for the world”.

He told UK parliamentarians that China would not “follow the path of the US” and allow per-capita emissions to rise that high.

“We are making efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions and our carbon intensity is decreasing,” he said.

The world’s climate scientists have agreed for some decades, and increasingly so, that global emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide must be curtailed to keep some semblance of the climate that we evolved to fit over the hundreds of thousands of years that we’ve been around (and the millions of years that parts of our essential ecosystem that have been supporting us needed to evolve to just right).

But it certainly is reassuring when politicians actually act upon that intelligence.

China’s annual emissions as of 2010 are at 6.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, compared to the US figure of 16.9 tonnes. In its per capita emissions, China has now pulled alongside of Italy. At its current rate of growth, China is predicted to match US by 2017 if its increase in production is all fueled by coal-fired power, but the minister says that domestic policies that have been enacted in China have been designed to prevent that from happening are legally binding.

China has a level of investment in nuclear power planned that is completely unprecedented worldwide. Wind and solar have both been doubled in the last six years. A boost in energy efficiency of 40-45% by 2020 is under way. China lays out five year and ten year plans and sticks to them. There’s no hostage-taking within China’s government to assuage some minister’s pet peeves. No filibuster. No whining.

What a relief to have the grownups in charge of at least one major power. And, since it is actually China that is the major power that will be responsible for the CO2 emissions level that will really decide our fate as a species, this has to be reassuring news. May he and his tribe live long and prosper.

Image: Tea and Carpets

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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