Sunday, September 27, 2009

China vows climate change action

Summary: In an attempt to control climate change, China vows to control its carbon dioxide emissions. Joint with the USA, China is responsible for 20% of the worlds greenhouse pollution. 70% of China's energy comes from coal which during combustion releases great amounts of carbon dioxide. The question now is whether or not China actually goes through with this or not. The main problem resides in the fact that the Chinese government believes developed nations should do more than developing nations.

This story is potentially groundbreaking. As one of the world's leading greenhouse polluters is talking about reducing their global emission. China is currently responsible for emitting 20% of the world's total carbon dioxide, this can only be matched by the USA. This therefore makes China into a very important and strategic nation in terms of overall pollution cutbacks. Reducing the amount emitted by a country such as China would have drastic consequences on the world's environment.
The main problem China has is that it is a developing nation, and as such has a necessity to consume all the energy it can create to further progress its economy. 70% of all the energy they produce comes from coal, which of course during its combustion generates great amounts of carbon dioxide. If they are true to their word then essentially the efficiency of the country will increase. The general goal is to reduce the carbon intensity of the nation, which is associated to the GDP of the nation. This is however very deceptive because one of the main problems is the speed at which the Chinese economy is growing. What would actually happen is that the overall emissions today would be exactly the same as those in 2030. In actual fact, no official figures have been published by the Chinese government so it is still uncertain as to what actually is going to happen.
One of the major factors in Chinese policy resides in the fact they believe they have a right to emit more carbon dioxide than developing countries. This of course is something which I am certainly in favor of. I feel it is unfair to force countries that haven't really contributed to what is now considered to be a global problem. Developed nations have been emitting all sorts of contaminants and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for years and years, without the slightest concern. This in turn has enabled us to progress, making us richer and more powerful. Whether or not this has contributed to global warming is a completely different debate which will continue to create conflict between experts. However what isn't debatable is the potential each country has to contributing to lowering emissions. It is unfair to ask a nation which finds itself in the position the US was back in the day, to cutback its progression. The Chinese have only been technologically competitive for a few years, and their accumulative pollution is not anywhere near the rest of developed nations. They are essentially still very economically immature and have a greater need to maintain their current status in order to make the next step into a developed country.
One of the major factors in global warming resides in the American energy policy. The fact the Kyoto protocol was dismissed completely proves just how much the Americans care about the overall well being of the world. The fact of the matter is that they only care about themselves and this in turn automatically gives China the right to not care about anything else but themselves and actually increase carbon dioxide emissions. However, thankfully some politicians are smart enough to understand that we all live on the same planet and therefore we all need to make an effort to cutback on any potentially harming policies. The Europeans have and are investing a great amount of their money into new technologies which have had serious effects on their carbon dioxide emissions.
The Chinese government is prepared to cutback on their emissions which in turn slows down their growth rate, but this should be seen as a good thing, as an example to the rest, that if we all pitch in, in the long run the earth will be in a better state. The Chinese have asked for help, they have asked for the developing nations to also make a move and actually make a greater effort in cutting back. This is simply because they have more power and a greater tolerance. The Chinese have also asked for the more powerful nations to investigate in cleaner technologies, which later on can be adopted by less developed nations. The general message is that everyone needs to contribute. With the Copenhagen summit later this year, where a general analysis of the state of the world will be evaluated, one can only hope that this time a step forward by the greater nations will be made.


Meghan Croxton said...

I think looking at a country’s history and status should have no effect on the amount of global pollution expected to emit each year. China does have permission to release carbon dioxide and other emissions, being such a populous and developing country, but every country has potential to use more reliable and clean forms of energy and are all fitted to do so.
I agree that Americans care only about themselves, which in turn forces other countries to look upon them and mimic their behavior. The world is home to every nation, so instead of competing with other countries for an allowance to release pollution, they should take responsibility to find a new, purified energy source to better the environment.
Yes, it is unfair to force China to cut back on its development when other countries have already taken advantage of this opportunity and have progressed, but there are numerous ways to promote this advancement with other options. Even though the Chinese are responsible for 20% of the world’s greenhouse pollution, their promise to lower carbon dioxide emissions is the first step towards a cleaner, fresher world. If others were to mimic this behavior the world would be in a much better state.

Timothy Zhou said...

To me, the statements of the Chinese president are too ambiguous to draw any conclusions about the impact these vows will have on curbing the issue of climate change. As both the article and Borja pointed out, without official figures, the vows are too abstract--which might not be a bad thing as at least they aren't making empty promises to the world by taking on ambitious goals that they will never reach.

In my eyes, the vow for climate change controls by the Chinese is more of a public relations strategy, given the international concerns of the emissions of the fossil fuels responsible for driving China's economic growth. The environmentally-conscious world wants to see steps taken by the second largest polluter in the world, to reduce its emissions. In the end, it is all politics.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't get our hopes up, but we should keep a close eye on what China does do. For example, this past summer I had the privilege to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics. I have been to Beijing many times before, but never was it as clean as it was during the Olympics. My grandparents who live in Beijing talked about how for the first time in years, they were able to see a clear sky. China just needs to use that drive they had to prepare for the Olympics, and keep going with it to prepare for an eco-friendly future.