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CO2 Emissions Where to Now?

Below is an article from London’s The Daily Telegraph commenting on a report by the Netherland’s Environmental Assessment Agency on (preliminary) data on global emissions of CO2 in 2010. The 41 page report is available at the above link.

The reported data shows that in 2010 China’s emissions increased by 10%, India’s by 9% and global emissions by a record 5.8%. It predicts that, even though China is rapidly installing wind and solar power generation capacities ( a doubling for the sixth year in a row), China’s per capita emissions could exceed those of the US by 2017. Note, however, that a Chinese official is reported in the article as claiming that emissions will now slow relative to the US.

The “record” increase in 2010 is partly due to the economic recovery of industrial countries from the GFC but importantly also due to the continued rapid growth of emissions by developing countries. Those countries included (Table A1.1 in the report) in the group covering China, “Other large developing countries” and “Remaining developing countries” increased their emissions by 7.8% and accounted for about 54% of total emissions in 2010. This compares with 39% of the total as recently as 2000.

What of the future? The report says that the long term annual average growth in world emissions since 1990 is 1.9% pa. If that rate of growth were to continue until 2020, world emissions would rise from 33 bn tonnes in 2010 to about 40 bn tonnes in 2020. Of that total the developing countries group (incl China) could be expected (assuming a continuation of their growth between 2000 and 2011) to emit over 30 bn tonnes or 75% of the world total in 2020.

This confirms that the (supposed) emissions problem is rapidly becoming centred on developing countries. Indeed, if industrial countries were to slow their emissions growth somewhat (as current economic conditions suggest) , developing countries would become the so-called polluters and the only ones that could solve the problem (sic). But as those countries are strongly resisting any binding agreement involving restrictions on their emissions, it is difficult to see any meaningful international agreement (as distinct from “pledges”) before 2020 that would restrict emissions.

The report has Australia’s emissions as showing a (puzzling but not explained) fall of 7% in 2010 to 0.40 bn tonnes, which would then have been about 1.2% of total world emissions. At that level Australia’s annual emissions were slightly less than those of Iran and Mexico.

If our government/opposition were to succeed in achieving their respective policies of cutting emissions in 2000 by 5 % by 2020, our emissions then would be about 0.34 bn tonnes (using the Report’s data). That would be about 0. 06 tonnes down on the 2010 level, a reduction of about 15%. In terms of the effect on world emissions, the rounded 40.0 bn projected above would be 39.9 bn in rounded terms. It scarcely needs asking why we should commit ourselves to a bout of economic suicide for this!

Des Moore

China population to become world's biggest polluters
China's carbon emissions for each member of its population could overtake that of Britain as early as the end of next year, it has been revealed.
Article by Peter Foster published in the UK Telegraph, 28 September 2011

The prediction comes in a report which shows that the country's carbon footprint is expanding far faster than predicted.

A combination of an infrastructure building spree and the ramping up of carbon-intensive industries after the 2008 financial crisis means China is now being catapulted into the ranks of developed world countries when it comes to per person CO2 emissions.

China already emits more carbon per person than France and Spain and on current trends will surpass the United States in per person emissions as early as 2017, according to the report conducted by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment agency and sponsored by the European Commission.

"Due to its rapid economic development, per capita emissions in China are quickly approaching levels common in the industrialised countries," wrote the authors of the report, Long-Term Trend in Global CO2 Emissions. "If the current trends in emissions by China and the industrialised countries including the US would continue for another seven years, China will overtake the US by 2017 as highest per capita emitter among the 25 largest emitting countries."

The 40-page report, based on recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and latest statistics for energy use and other activities, is the most up-to-date assessment of China's position in global emissions tables.

China overtook the United States as the world largest producer of greenhouse gases in 2007, but has defended its emissions levels by arguing that its carbon footprint was reasonable for a developing country when calculated on a per person basis. Analysts said the new data reflected not only China's spiralling emissions, but also the fact that, as the emissions of EU countries continued to fall, China was converging with the developed world more quickly than had been previously appreciated.

Michael Jacobs, a former special adviser to Gordon Brown on climate change and now a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, said the findings would force China to begin to accept it could no longer be treated as a developing country when it came to climate change.

"China doesn't want to acknowledge that it's no longer 'just another developing country', but as its total and per capita emissions rise, it's inevitable that China will have to take a greater degree of responsibility both domestically and in the international arena," he said.

As recently as the 2008 Copenhagen Conference, British officials were working on the principle that China's emissions were half those of EU countries and a quarter of US levels. However, those assumptions now appear highly conservative.

The sheer speed and scale of growth in China's carbon emissions threatens to call into question the credibility of the country as the de facto leader of the developing world in international climate negotiations, with India still only emitting 1.5 tons per person.

Mr Jacobs said China should be given credit for its efforts to increase its use of renewable energy – it has doubled its wind and solar power capacity every year for the past six years – but the report showed those efforts were being dwarfed by the scale of China's industrial boom.

A £400 billion stimulus package, plus billions more in soft loans that have surged into China's economy since 2008, has seen Chinese power generation – mostly from coal – rise by 11.6 per cent in 2010, with carbon-intensive steel and cement production up 9.6 and 15.1 per cent respectively. As a result, China's emissions rose 10 per cent in 2010 to reach 6.8 tons per person – compared with 5.9 tons in France; 8.1 tons in the UK and 16.9 tons for the United States. As recently as 2000, China was emitting just 2.9 tons per person. "China has begun to take more aggressive action to slow down its emissions growth," said Mr Jacobs. "What obviously remains in question is whether those changes are happening at a pace sufficient to offset the growth in China's emissions.

"These figures are another warning signal that, while both China and Europe are now acting on climate change, it's not happening fast enough to deal with the global problem."

Jiang Kejun, of China's Energy Research Institute, the country's leading climate think tank and closely affiliated to the government, said predictions that China would pass the US in emissions by 2017 wrongly assumed that China's emissions would not begin to slow.

"The assumption that China will catch the US on per capita basis by 2017 does not take into account the impacts of the recent Five Year Plan and the massive investment in renewable technologies which will slow the rate of China's emissions growth relative to the US," he said.

He added that a significant proportion of China's emissions were also used in creating goods that were exported to US and European consumers, a fact not reflected in their per capita emissions. The report, produced for the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, found that industrialised countries "collectively remain on target" to meet the original Kyoto Protocol objective of reducing emissions by 5.2 per cent from 1990 levels.

However, despite those efforts, global carbon emissions continued to rise at record levels last year as a result of China's growth boom and worldwide economic stimulus.

"Continued growth in the developing nations and economic recovery in the industrialised countries are the main reasons for a record breaking 5.8 per cent increase in 2010 in global CO2 emissions an absolute maximum of 33.0 billion tons," the report's authors concluded.

"Increased energy end-use efficiency, nuclear energy and the growing contribution from renewable energy cannot yet compensate for the globally increasing demand for power and transport. This illustrates the large and joint effort still required for mitigating climate change."

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