Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China Wins the Gold (in CO2 Emissions)

When Climateer Investing passed along the news that China had become the number one CO2 emitter I included a link to the BBC that had some quotes from a senior British official I should have highlighted:

"China is now building about two power stations every week, the top climate change official at the UK Foreign Office, John Ashton, has said.

He said there was no point blaming China for rising global CO2 emissions.

Rich nations had to set an example of low-carbon development for China to follow, Mr Ashton told the BBC."

Mr. Ashton is on the same page as Greenpeace U.K.:

Reacting to a study released today claiming China emitted more carbon-dioxide than the United States in 2006, Greenpeace UK director John Sauven said:

"Responsibility for China's soaring emissions lies not just in Beijing but also in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo. All we've done is export a great slice of the West's carbon footprint to China, and today we see the result. Let us not forget that the average Chinese emits just 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, whereas Britons emit nearly 10 tonnes and North Americans 20 tonnes."

He continued:

"The West moved its manufacturing base to China knowing it was vastly more polluting than Japan, Europe or the US. No environmental conditions were attached to this move, in fact the only thing manufacturers were interested in was the price of labour. This trend kept the price of our products down but at the cost of soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Long term this policy has been a climate disaster.

"We should export clean energy technology to China to increase low carbon and renewable energy take-up so the products we import have a smaller carbon footprint."

This theme was picked up by NewsPost India and newKerala (India) "China not to blame for rising CO2 emissions: Britain"

Grist reported the news in their own inimitable style:

The United States is no longer the world's biggest polluter. That honor goes to China, which emitted some 8 percent more carbon dioxide in 2006 than Bushland, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

But on a per-person basis, Americans pollute roughly four to five times more than folks in China. And while the emissions surge is tied to a booming industrial landscape -- China opens the equivalent of two coal-fired power plants each week -- that growth is spurred in part by Western consumers buying goods made in China, and by outsourced manufacturing.

So: still your fault. While China's leaders work on a climate plan, observers say residents are more worried about their immediate environs: "Most people in China are either unaware of or uninterested in climate change," says Zou Ji of Renmin University. "When we become richer and richer, and feel safer and safer, then people will have more time and more resources to pay attention to something not directly linked to themselves."

Planet Gore referenced a Christian Science Monitor story from a few years ago:

So much for Kyoto.

The official treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions hasn't gone into effect yet and already three countries are planning to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce.

And me? I'm not sure what to think.