Tuesday, 22 September 2009

China and US failing on climate

Okay. A long pause - apologies. Today we get the news from New York that the Chinese government has pledged to 'significantly reduce carbon intensity by 2020'. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, and a useful step in putting pressure on India and the US in advance of the Copenhagen negotiations, frankly it doesn't add up to much. China may as well have said that they will make their industry more efficient, since that is all the statement means. 

While it may be true that most of the historical guilt for climate change rests on the North Americans and Europeans, China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide (as well as a lot of other pollutants).  Already China's emissions per capita are higher those of progressive European countries like Sweden (6 tonnes compared to 5.6 tonnes per person) despite a far lower income. In addition, thirteen provinces have emissions as high as the main European countries, with of the most developed coming in higher than the UK, which is on around 10 tonnes per person. So, anything which can improve this is good. Unfortunately however China's scale is such that simply increasing the GDP they can squeeze per tonne of carbon is not good enough.

At the same time the US is left flailing, its landmark climate change bill unlikely to be passed in time for Copenhagen. In the language of Nicholas Sarkozy - we are on the path to failure. Nonetheless Europe must press ahead with an ambitious programme. It is the only choice. 

Link - Chinese provinces outstrip western emissions