For the first time in history China’s per-person carbon emissions have surpassed the EU’s—and the country’s total CO2 output is now higher than the America’s and EU’s combined. The news comes via the FT, just in time for tomorrow’s New York City climate summit, which China will not attend. Skyrocketing emissions in that country present a huge problem for any attempt to reduce emissions though a global climate treaty, as this NYT interview with scientist Glen Peters highlights:
There has been unprecedented growth in renewable technologies, but the construction of coal power plants continues almost unabated. Given these power plants will be in operation for 40 years or more, China has already committed to emit more in the future than it has in the past. Interestingly, if the remaining carbon quota to stay below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is shared amongst nations according to population, then China has already exceeded its share of the quota if these committed emissions are included. […]While China is moving forward with stronger and stronger climate policies, it is unclear if China’s current level of ambition is consistent with keeping global warming below two degrees.
Until Beijing demonstrates a willingness to make the deep cuts and changes to its energy usage that the 2 percent temperature rise cap requires, all discussion of a comprehensive global climate treaty will be in vain. There is some hope that China’s efforts to boost its economy and tackle domestic pollution will have the side effect of reducing the country’s emissions. However, greens who hunger for a global solution won’t stop running up against China’s determination to do what it thinks best for its own economic growth.