China Shows How Much It Cares About Climate Change: With A Single, Upraised Finger

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
AP Photo/Martin Meissner

China has shown the world how much it truly cares about global warming by burning significantly more dirty, carbon-unfriendly coal than it previously pretended.

According to shock data  released, without fanfare, by China’s statistical agency, its coal use has been about 17 per cent higher per year than earlier official figures admitted. This may have pumped an extra billion tons per year of CO2 into the atmosphere – more than the total greenhouse gas output of the entire German economy.

In 2012, China burned through an extra 600 million tons of coal: about 70 per cent of the amount used annually by the US.

The new figures make a nonsense of China’s publicly-expressed commitment to wage war on climate change.

Only two days ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping emerged from a summit with French president Francois Hollande, calling for “an ambitious and legally binding deal” at the forthcoming COP21 climate talks being staged by the UN in Paris later this month.

This moved Greenpeace China’s Li Shuo to declare it “encouraging to see the ball rolling and diplomacy nudging us a small step forward”. He added:

“Moreover, with the recent decline in coal consumption and robust renewable energy development, China is positioning itself at the front of climate leadership. This is drastically different from six years ago in Copenhagen.”

We now know that this was wishful thinking.

Not that we couldn’t have guessed this anyway. China’s policy on CO2 emissions is – and always has been – a case of “tell the gullible Gwailo whatever they want to hear – then carry on building coal-fired power stations regardless.”

If starry-eyed environmental campaigners want to big up China’s green credentials by being amazed by how much renewable energy the Chinese produce, then that’s great too. It means that idiot eco-evangelists aren’t going to look too closely at China’s generally appalling environmental track record – not just the smog in Beijing and the other big cities, but also the poisoning and devastation in areas where they mine the rare earth minerals which are a vital ingredient for those bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes the Gwailo imagine are so eco-friendly.

Meanwhile, Chinese industrial progress will continue largely unconstrained by green squeamishness.

China has promised the world that its CO2 emissions will peak by 2030 but it hasn’t admitted what that peak might be. Instead, it has simply said that it will reduce its carbon emissions per unit of GDP – because it doesn’t want its economic growth shackled to a fixed target.

Paul Homewood at Notalotofpeopleknowthat has done the calculations and come up with two scenarios:

The first is based on annual growth rate of 8%, in line with the last four years, but much less than growth in the years leading up to 2010, which I don’t believe will return.

On this assumption, GDP in 2030, at 2010 prices, will more than have tripled to 187.2 trillion yuan.

As the intensity target for 2030 is 40% of 2005 levels, this equates to 30.4 MtC per trillion yuan, giving CO2 emissions of 5690 MtC. This, of course, more than doubles current emissions of 2747 MtC.

The second GDP scenario is a lower growth one, used by the IMF, of 6.6% till 2020, followed by 5.4%. Using this, we get GDP in 2030 of 135.4 trillion yuan, still more than double last year.

Running the same equation, we get CO2 emissions of 4116 MtC, which is an increase of 50% from current levels.

Either way, it’s not looking good for total global CO2 emissions.

As China currently contributes 28% of global emissions, the two scenarios would add 30% and 14% to current global emissions respectively. Put another way, even the lower scenario would add more then the whole of the EU currently produces in total.

But whatever else comes out of this, you’ve got to admire China’s style. Fancy releasing that revised data so close to the Paris UN summit. Why, you’d almost imagine it considered the whole business a complete joke.



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