China talks a pretty big game when it comes to climate change and cutting emissions, but according to Xie Zhenhua, the country’s chief negotiator to the Doha climate change conference, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions will keep on rising until its GDP increases by five times its current rate.
China’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 171% between 2000 and 2011, and its per capita GDP currently stands at $5,000. Zhenhua says emissions will continue to rise until that number reaches $20,000 or $25,000 per capita, which is still lower than the current U.S. figure.
The country has previously boasted ambitious investments in renewable energy and consumption targets, so it is unfortunate and a little surprising to see officials putting economic growth over the environment, as opposed to working on a plan that prioritizes both. Analysts say it’s unlikely that China’s emissions will stop rising anytime before 2030, which is when urbanization may peak and population growth could slow down and eventually fall.
According to Li Yan, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s climate and energy campaign, China’s transition from coal has been slowed due to messy politics. “There is some discrepancy between the central government’s political will and local governments’ desire for high GDP growth,” she said. She added that China will “be expected to take even bolder actions in 2015,” which is when officials claim the country’s carbon intensity will drop significantly.
China is currently the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for more than 70% of the world’s energy consumption growth in 2011. It will have one of the largest impacts on global temperature rise and whether or not the planet can meet long-term goals, so it is time officials find a way to fix the economy while cutting emissions simultaneously. The same goes for the US. Do you think that is possible?