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  • Reality Check on China

    Q: As we get closer to the United Nation’s conference on climate change in Copenhagen and nations begin setting their agendas, are their goals realistic? Last week, the U.S. and China each announced their emissions target goals. Are they big enough?

    Throughout the global warming debate, there have always been those willing to put on an extra-thick pair of rose-colored glasses when it comes to China. China is going green, we are repeatedly told, and thus America needs to catch up in committing to reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The latest announcement, ahead of Copenhagen, that China may agree to first-ever emissions targets is the latest such instance.

    It is time for a reality check on China before the American delegation puts its own proposal on the table in Denmark.

    The reality is that China’s carbon dioxide emissions will continue heading sharply upward. China is building new coal-fired power plants at a furious pace as well as expanding its coal mining operations. It is buying up fossil fuel reserves at top dollar all around the world. If the Chinese are really going to reduce emissions, then why continue to spend billions every year on stuff they’ll soon have to stop using? The U.S. Energy Information Administration has looked beyond the rhetoric and assessed China’s actions, and it projects Chinese emissions rising nine times faster than America’s through 2030.

    Nor is China denying this reality. As with past announcements from China, there is less here than some would like to believe. First, the targets are emissions intensity targets – emissions per unit of economic output. In other words, emissions can still go up as long as China’s economy grows. Given recent growth rates, China’s targets suggest little if any change from business as usual. China also made clear that its compliance is not subject to independent verification. To ask the question whether China would simply cheat if in their economic interest to do so is to answer the question. Further, despite holding $2.3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China insists on developed world aid for its troubles, and in amounts neither the U.S. nor the E.U. has shown any willingness to provide.

    On the other hand, President Obama’s pledge ahead of Copenhagen — a 17 percent emissions cut within a decade — would not be a charade. If the U.S. were to ratify a treaty with this target, it would have the force of law, and the resultant energy price hikes would become a painful reality here for consumers and businesses. A Heritage Foundation analysis of similar energy rationing targets in the House Waxman-Markey bill (17 percent target for 2020 on its way to 83 percent by 2050) found higher energy costs for a household of four over $800 per year and an average of over 1 million net job losses. And all for emissions reductions that would be swamped by increases from China alone, not to mention other fast-developing nations.

    Whether or not the pre-Copenhagen proposals from China and the U.S. create momentum for a major agreement, one thing is clear: they shouldn’t.

    Originally appeared in The Washington Post.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Reality Check on China

    1. Ben Gee, Edmonton, C says:

      The best measures for energy target should be energy use per person. How can we expect say India to cut back its energy use if each person use only 10% of what an average American use? If reduced energy use cost each American $ 800 per year, this is less than 2% of the average american income. Less than 50% of Indians make $ 800 a year. An alternative way to use cost to determine energy reduction would be. A 2% cost for an average Indian would be $ 24.00 since the average income of India is about $ 1200. How can one expect a poor country to pay as much as rich countries?

    2. Zhuubaajie, Hong Kon says:

      Why does 2050 matter? If America continues to allow the money changers to play with derivatives, the nation would long be truly bankrupt before then. Forget 1 million jobs lost. Try Zimbabwe. So far all efforts to reform the financial system have be thwarted, and literally the foxes are running the henhouse, as far as the American financial system is concerned. Instead of putting the frauds in jail and confiscating their illgotten wealth, the powers that be took money that America does not have and threw another $2 trillion and change at the moneychangers. Today derivatives from around the world total more than 1.4 quadrillion (that is 1,400,000 Billion) – and most of that toxic mess came from America. Put that against the total asset base of less than 100 Trillion (all assets, including all the commercial real estate which bubble is going to burst,stocks and bonds, equity in banks, etc.), juat a 1% swing in price in the derivatives could wipe out most of that.

      And you are worrying about China putting out CO2. It figures.

    3. Pingback: Lloyd’s Register Copenhagen Blog, December 7, 2009 • BusinessAssurance.com

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