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Published on October 27th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


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

October 27th, 2011 by  

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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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • I don’t think you’ve ever spent a significant time in China or know anything about that country.

    These are merely words. The Chinese government is first and foremost interested in increasing GDP – environment is a way to make them look “better.” Look at their failed eco-cities, and their most recent venture with Singapore, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City, is a horrible waste of every resource in the name of creating a “green” city.

    If you know anything, that country is full of false promises by the government. The government there does ANYTHING to save face and try to increase its international reputation. And this is done by cheating, lying, etc. Look at their handling of everything, from the bullet train incident (where they initially buried the trains in the ground at the site of the accident) to the Beijing 2008 olympics (underage gymnasts, etc.).

    The authoritarian government style has benefits, like enforcing paid-plastic bags at super markets, but what the Chinese government says and believes are two (oftentimes conflicting) things.

    • Anonymous

      Of course the Chinese government sometimes says and believes conflicting things. And, of course, the Chinese government has a lot of work to do in areas such as democracy and human rights. And, yes, “saving face” is important.

      But the discussion here is about how China is going gangbusters at installing clean energy generation.

      I do not agree with your statement that the Chinese government is working to make the environment in order to make them look better. If you’ve spent any time in China you will know that China has some terrible pollution problems, sometimes the air is so thick that it feels like you could break off a piece and chew it. The Chinese government recognizes that it must make people’s lives better in order to stay in power. Raising the population out of dire poverty was the first job. Now that they have made significant progress on that problem they are able to concentrate on other problems.

      China is working to improve its climatic problems. They are not denying climate change and blocking clean energy as are some western democracies.

      Does that make them “superior”? Of course not. But let’s give them credit for things they are doing right. We could learn from them.

    • Susan Kraemer

      If you look at China’s actions taken to implement renewable energy (the solution to climate change) it is clear it is not just words.
      Far from it.


      • Chittaluru Akil

        Numbers are all fine, but if you feel like you can chew the air, you’ve already done something wrong. I am all for poverty eradication, but there needs to be a balance between that and the environment (as there needs to be a balance between progress and the maintenance of human rights), and I’m not so sure that China has struck that balance…

        • Anonymous

          China is working on the problem. Perhaps even aggressively working on the problem.

          Bad air is not something that came to China with its current industrial revolution. During and after the Mao era the air in China’s cities was terrible. Sanitation was awful.

          It looks to me like China will reach a good balance between adequate wealth and reasonable environmental conditions faster than most countries have done. Here, in the US, we certainly pulled ourselves up financially well before we quit setting our rivers on fire.

  • Samuel Muldoon

    Why did you include a picture of a rug?

    • Susan Kraemer

      The Chinese rug looks like the art of an old and civilized nation. And it is about respect for nature and for human achievements like art that make up our civilization, that would be a shame to destroy. So it is a way of understanding such a grownup approach to preserving civilization on the part of the Chinese.

      • Anonymous

        nice 😀

      • euroflycars

        Note that the rug depicts plenty of flying animals!

        (See my comment on Toyotas 600+ miles range battery).

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