So upon closer examination, China’s plan to combat climate change has a good deal less in it than I’d thought. That is, it’s a non-plan, but it’s not a detailed non-plan.
The document itself, in PDF format, is here, in decent English translation. The New York Times‘s story is here, and the Associated Press’s is here. The essence of it is that China acknowledges that climate change is real, it’s affecting China even now and will do so more in the future, China believes that humans are significantly responsible, and China won’t sacrifice a thing to halt it unless all the developed countries of the world do. All other things being equal, China will choose lower-emissions technologies (and will be pleased to accept donations of same), but it feels no obligation to sacrifice anything whatsoever in the short term to make its economy more sustainable, no matter all the rhetoric about sustainability as an objective.
Two important observations for Canadians
First, from page 24, the first item in the section titled “Principles”:
The extent to which developing countries will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country of their basic commitments.
The English is rough but the message is clear: if you’ve missed your Kyoto targets, don’t you dare tell us what we ought to do.
Second, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech in Germany today proposing that developing countries adopt the Canadian approach to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions — intensity-based targets instead of absolute ones, so the objective is to reduce emissions per unit of production, if not necessarily to cut the total amount of gas you’re emitting (that is, the number the matters). Here’s his suggestion to countries like China:
The approach we have chosen, basing emissions reduction targets on units of production in the short run, allows growing and developing economies to engage in significant greenhouse gas reductions without putting themselves at immediate risk.
Consider these tidbits from the Chinese climate-change plan in that light:
According to the Initial National Communication on Climate Change of the People’s Republic of China, China’s total GHG emissions in 1994 are 4,060 million tons of CO2 equivalent … According to tentative estimates by experts from China, China’s total GHG emission in 2004 is about 6,100 [million tonnes].
Along with the steady social and economic development, the emission intensity defined as the CO2 emission per unit of GDP declined generally. According to IEA, China’s emission intensity falls to 2.76 kgCO2/US$ (constant 2000 U.S. dollar) in 2004, as compared to 5.47 kgCO/US$ in 1990, a 49.5% decrease.
What the jargon means is that in the same approximate period as China’s actual emissions, the actual stuff that contributes to the greenhouse effect, went up about 50 per cent, its emissions intensity dropped by about 50 per cent.
Doesn’t make intensity-based targets sound so great.