Climate Policy Imperils China, India

by Marlo Lewis on November 5, 2009

in Blog

Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation at the UN climate talks in Barcelona, says China should cut its CO2 emissions 50% by 2050.

Reuters reports:

BARCELONA, Spain, Nov 5 (Reuters) – China should roughly halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to keep the world on a safe climate path, the head of the U.S. delegation at U.N. climate talks in Barcelona said on Thursday.

Leading industrialised countries say that the world must halve greenhouse gases by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and have committed to lead by cutting their own emissions by 80 percent.

China should cut by about 50 percent, leaving space for poorer countries to grow their economies, Jonathan Pershing told Reuters.

“If you put China in there at a 50 percent reduction, if we’re a bit higher, that gives lesser developed countries a bit lower. If they are in that middle band, plus or minus some percentage, that seems about right.”

China would be on course to meet that goal if it repeated its present energy efficiency five-year plan into the future, he added. “They’re doing pretty well,” he said.

As discussed in previous posts, meeting the EU/UN/Al Gore CO2 “stabilization” goal — 450 parts per million by 2050 — would require heroic (suicidal?) sacrifices on the part of developing countries. Stabilization at 450 ppm would require, at a minimum, a 50% reduction in global emissions by 2050. Because most of all the increase in global emissions over the next four decades (indeed, the next 90 years) is projected to come from developing countries, meeting the stabilization target would require developing countries to lower their emissions more than 60% below baseline projections even if industrial countries magically achieve zero net emissions by 2050!

Barring technological breakthroughs (in their nature unpredictable) that dramatically lower the cost and improve the performance of non-emitting energy technologies, the only way developing countries could comply is by restricting their use of energy. Yet developing countries are poor in no small part because they lack access to abundant, affordable energy. The 450 ppm goal is a recipe for “stabilizing” global poverty.

Don’t be fooled by Pershing’s remark that all China needs to do is keep repeating its “five-year” plan. Supposedly, China is already “well on the way” to reducing its energy intensity 20% by 2010. Based on the only data available, Roger Pielke, Jr. finds that China has cut intensity only 7.4% from 2005 to 2008, “meaning that it has a long way to go to reach a 20% target by 2010.” Besides, even if the first five-year emission intensity reduction plan succeeds, it represents the low-hanging fruit. Replicating that achievement every five years would become increasingly costly and difficult.

That a 450 ppm CO2 stabilization target cannot be met unless China slams the brakes on its economy has been clear from basic emissions arithmetic for some time. What’s new is that a U.S. Government official is quantifying, in the context of climate treaty negotiations, what “meaningful participation” by China actually means.

So far, India and China have escaped Kyoto-style energy rationing. This makes their products more competitive in global markets, and pulls capital and jobs away from CO2-regulated economies.  But we’re only two years into the first (2008-2012) Kyoto compliance period. At some point, free riders have to pay up or get off the train.

The EU, Japan, and the United States (if it ratifies Kyoto II) will not accept a permanent arrangement under which they bear all the costs of energy rationing, fork over billions in technology transfers and climate assistance to developing countries, and export more jobs to India and China.

The longer the Kyoto project endures, the greater the pressure India and China will face — in the form of carbon tariffs, for example — to join the club of the carbon-constrained.

If India and China want to protect their right to grow and avert an economically-debilitating era of trade conflict, they should get off the global warming bandwagon as soon as possible. A balanced assessment of the science does not justify alarm. India and China already act on the premise that global warming policy is more dangerous than global warming itself. It’s time for their words to match their deeds.

Bob R Geologist, Tuc November 8, 2009 at 9:42 pm

We have an unproven hypothesis that higher levels of CO2 in our atmosphere pose a grave danger of run-away global warming. This Green inspired fantasy is hard to reconcile with the fact that as high as 20 times today's 380 ppm did not prove distructive to life in the Mesozoic. $30 billion in climate modeling research has been unable to prove by empirical evidence that man-made CO2 has produced any significant effect on the global climate. I see no need to spend pocket change, let alone trillions of dollars in the supreme conceit that man can control any geologic process, let alone a highly complex one as is climate.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: