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China About to Pass US as World's Top Generator of Greenhouse Gases

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  • Mike Neuman
    March 5, 2007 China About to Pass US as World s Top Generator of Greenhouse Gases by Robert Collier Far more than previously acknowledged, the battle against
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2007
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      March 5, 2007
      China About to Pass US as World's Top Generator of Greenhouse Gases
      by Robert Collier

      Far more than previously acknowledged, the battle against global
      warming will be won or lost in China, even more so than in the West,
      new data show.

      A report released last week by Beijing authorities indicated that as
      its economy continues to expand at a red-hot pace, China is highly
      likely to overtake the United States this year or in 2008 as the
      world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

      This information, along with data from the International Energy
      Agency, the Paris-based alliance of oil importing nations, also
      revealed that China's greenhouse gas emissions have recently been
      growing by a total amount much greater than that of all
      industrialized nations put together.

      "The magnitude of what's happening in China threatens to wipe out
      what's happening internationally," said David Fridley, leader of the
      China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

      "Today's global warming problem has been caused mainly by us in the
      West, with the cumulative (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases)
      in the atmosphere, but China is contributing to the global warming
      problem of tomorrow."

      New statistics released in Beijing on Wednesday by China's National
      Bureau of Statistics show that China's consumption of fossil fuels
      rose in 2006 by 9.3 percent, about the same rate as in previous
      years -- and about eight times higher than the U.S. increase of 1.2

      While China's total greenhouse gas emissions were only 42 percent of
      the U.S. level in 2001, they had soared to an estimated 97 percent of
      the American level by 2006.

      "The new data are not encouraging," said Yang Fuqiang, China director
      for the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco organization that works
      extensively with Lawrence Berkeley scientists and the Chinese
      government on energy-saving programs. "China will overtake the United
      States much faster than expected as the No. 1 emitter."

      China's top environmental official admitted Wednesday that the
      results show the government's environment agenda of the past few
      years has been ineffective.

      "Economic growth is still excessive ... and there is slow progress in
      restructuring obsolete and backward production capacity," said Zhou
      Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Agency.

      "The new data show that many local officials are more concerned about
      economic development, about increasing gross domestic product, and
      see energy efficiency and environmental protection as a lower
      priority," said Yang, of the Energy Foundation.

      In an attempt to force local governments to obey energy-efficiency
      edicts from Beijing, the government recently announced that local
      officials' pay and promotion will be judged in part based on their
      environmental record, not just their economic success. The first
      evaluation period will be in July.

      China's emergence as a global warming polluter has been intensely
      controversial in international negotiations over climate change.

      The Bush administration refused to join the Kyoto Protocol in part
      because the pact committed only industrialized nations, but not fast-
      growing poorer nations like China, to reduce their emissions of
      greenhouse gases.

      Chinese officials, however, note that the country's per capita
      emissions are far below those in the West, and they say any move to
      adopt mandatory cuts now would restrain its economic growth and in
      effect penalize its 1.3 billion people for being poor. The officials
      say China must be given the chance to attain the West's standard of
      prosperity before it will cut emissions.

      "It must be pointed out that climate change has been caused by the
      long-term historic emissions of developed countries and their high
      per-capita emissions," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang
      Yu, said last month.

      "Developed countries bear an unshirkable responsibility," she said,
      adding that they should "lead the way in assuming responsibility for
      emissions cuts."

      International negotiations have begun over a successor pact to the
      Kyoto Protocol, and industrial nations -- and most environmentalists -
      - are insisting that big developing nations such as China, India and
      Brazil commit to reductions.

      China's hard line may finally be softening, however.

      The Chinese government recently admitted that global warming will
      dramatically impact China's ability to feed its people. A government
      report released in January said that climate change will cause
      China's production of wheat, corn and rice to drop by as much as 37
      percent over the next 50 years.

      Precipitation over the country's northern grainbelt is expected to
      drop markedly, causing worsened droughts and dust storms, while
      increased flooding and typhoons are expected in the subtropical
      south, the report said.

      What China needs, many experts say, is help from the United States
      and other Western nations to help adopt energy-saving technologies.
      China's energy consumption per unit of production is 40 percent
      higher than the world's average, and about 70 percent of its energy
      comes from coal, usually burned in highly inefficient power plants.

      The U.S. Energy Department carries out some technical cooperation
      with China on issues such as coal, but most forms of U.S. assistance
      to China have been barred under sanctions imposed by Congress after
      the 1989 Tiananmen killings in Beijing.

      Although Chinese officials say their country should receive foreign
      grants and subsidies, the Central Bank has the world's highest
      foreign-exchange reserves, at $1.1 trillion, so most experts say
      China needs training and technology rather than cash.

      China has much to learn from California, said Barbara Finamore,
      director of the China program of the Natural Resources Defense

      The state's Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission have
      exchanged information with their counterparts in China in recent
      years, but Finamore said much more is needed to help spread
      California's energy-efficient ways.

      "This is what China is missing," Finamore said, referring to the
      state's complex mix of efficiency standards for buildings, appliances
      and industry. "We have no national energy-efficiency program, but 20
      U.S. states use them, and China is on the brink of using them."

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