US-Style Emissions a 'Disaster'
Image Credit: Flickr / IsaacMao

US-Style Emissions a 'Disaster'


Allowing China’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions to reach the levels of the United States would be a ‘disaster for the world,’ the country’s minister responsible for climate policy has said. And China and Europe should ‘join hands to push the US to take action.’

The comments, reported by the BBC, were made by Xie Zhenhua, vice chair of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, on a trip to London to explore co-operation on green energy between China and the UK.

Speaking to members of parliament, Xie reportedly said: ‘We are making efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions and our carbon intensity is decreasing…We want to reach the peak as soon as possible.’

China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but its emissions per person still lag considerably behind the United States. However, a report released last month by the European Commission said that although China’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions currently stand at 6.8 tons compared with the United States’ 16.9 tons, the Chinese figure could pass that of the US before the end of the decade.

‘Due to its rapid economic development, per capita emissions in China are quickly approaching levels common in the industrialised countries of the Annex I group under the Kyoto Protocol, the report noted. ‘In fact, present CO2 emissions per person in China are now equal to those of Italy, higher than France, but still smaller than that of Germany.’

‘However, if the current trends in emissions by China and the industrialised countries including the USA would continue for another seven years, China will overtake the USA by 2017 as highest per capita emitter among the 25 largest emitting countries.’

China came in for heavy international criticism over its alleged intransigence at the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009, with many observers arguing that Beijing was determined to work with India to scupper efforts to set tough, specific targets.

But Beijing also appears to have been making significant efforts to expand its use of green energy.

Last month, Xie said China would spend 2 trillion yuan ($313 billion) on developing green energy and reducing carbon emissions over the next five years, with a view to cutting per-unit GDP energy consumption by 16 percent compared with 2010.

‘During the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period, the Chinese government will boost low-carbon development from 10 perspectives,’ Xie was quoted by China Daily as telling the Second China International Eco-City Forum. ‘Promoting circular economy projects, establishing 100 demonstration bases for resource comprehensive utilization and launching low carbon pilot programmes in five provinces and eight cities are all methods China will use.’

Such commitment is likely to be welcomed by other nations – but it is also a necessity, a point captured by The Guardian’s Asia environment correspondent Jonathan Watts in his book When a Billion Chinese Jump.

‘By figuring out how to put China on a sustainable track half, if not all, the world's problems are solved, because other countries that are coming up behind in terms of economic development, like India or Brazil or Indonesia, would have a model to follow,’ he told The Diplomat.

‘But at the same time, if you can't do that, you end up with a country like China following a really nightmarish extreme: the US model of energy consumption. Even if it was the much more scaled down, more modest, more efficient consumption of Japan, or even just of Europe, you’d still have a calamitous situation on your hands because you've got these Chinese multiples of everything.’

Same Conference
October 30, 2011 at 17:29

Well the actions taken by China is really to help the planet especially on stopping pollution which caused unusual climate changes. We all know about the greenhouse effect and global warming. So we must help each other to save our planet.

James Kennedy, Beijing
October 30, 2011 at 03:41

Clarification: Global and local climates are delicate and must be protected. Rapid climate change is undesirable on all fronts.

But Carbon Dioxide has huge benefits for food production, without which, we’ll have to resort to increased use of fertilisers, pesticides and GM technologies. The projected increase in atmospheric CO2 until 2050 provides enough boosted plant growth to feed 10 billion (reasonable) meat-eaters… provided the climate doesn’t warm up.

We should strive for minimal pollution and a stable climate. Like minimal crime and a stable economy, they’re equally necessary. The current mainstream approach to environmentalism (of reducing CO2 emissions) is akin to reducing GDP in order to tackle crime. It’s lunacy.

CO2 is your friend. It’s climate warming, and all the other crap that’s sometimes emitted alongside CO2, which are undesirable. Support China’s fight against cancer-causing particulates, heavy-metal river-efflux and poisonous milk powder, but don’t heckle us on CO2. Meanwhile, developed countries can deploy cheap technologies to stabilise the climate, like cloud whitening and stratospheric aerosols. Thank you.

October 28, 2011 at 15:39

China has the 5 times the population as the US and manufactures most of the items around the world. Still its overall pollution is about the same as the US. If China’s the per capita emission becomes the same as the US it would mean that China will be producing 5 times more pollution than it is today. Of course that would be a bad thing for the world.

October 27, 2011 at 23:47

Kudos to China for taking some exemplary measures to combat its green-house gas emissions. The Chinese push for wind energy is admirable, with the vast hinterlands of Xinjiang, Tibet and Qinghai having a huge potential for further expansion.

The Copenhagen summit was resisted by both India & China for the simple fact that it’s binding obligations were seen as double standards by both Nations. China was asked to cut it’s carbon footprint by 40%, while it was 25% for India. As for the US, it was a paltry 4%! All this while the US per capita carbon footprint was way above China’s…

October 27, 2011 at 02:51

@emurrka about Chicago vs Wuhan

Note that China is very unevenly developed, meaning that where there is a huge difference between cities and country side, a difference which includes pollution. Furthermore, IIRC the reason Wuhan has smog is not because of the carbon dioxide emissions discussed in the article, so you would have to compare other pollutants.

October 26, 2011 at 16:44

I take it you guys don’t understand the concept of ‘per capita’.

It’s really shameful that China is the one making major steps in the right direction before America does.

October 26, 2011 at 13:54

China’s total carbon dioxide emissions are already a massive ‘disaster for the world’.

October 26, 2011 at 08:43

okay. so i’m from chicago, i visited central chinese wuhan last summer, and the pollution was horrendous. these two cities are the same size. i couldn’t see the sun clearly on the nicest days. i think it is blatantly obvious who has the pollution problems. we actually have EPA regulations and are generally on-track. heck i even went to the great wall, sunny day, still foggy polluted sky. but i would love to see china turn it around.

October 26, 2011 at 07:51

Ah, why did they take too long to get nuclear fusion to work? I hope I can see it as the primary source of energy in my lifetime. Only then we can view a beautiful Chinese (or wherever else) landscape picture without the smog 100 feet away.

October 26, 2011 at 01:29

China does not want her citizen to have a Hummer on every driveway.

The rapid deployment of rail transport and other renewable energy as well as accepting global warming are steps that China recognizes her problems and is taking actions.

What Japan is going to do with her energy need after Fukushima?

Please write about that.

yang zi
October 25, 2011 at 23:42

the cut throat competition in solar panels has driven the solar energy price on par with wind. it is a revolutionary development. but US solar companies are now pushing for trade barriers to protect high solar engergy prices.

China should mandate the installation of solar panels on roof tops, make solar engery a big part of comsumption. The world is coming to the end if China follows US model.

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