The Story of the Week (if true): China wants to freeze emissions at 2005 levels

wen.jpgPrime Minister Wen Jiabao told journalists Wednesday:

China in the next five years will be determined to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent (per unit of GDP) to reduce carbon emissions and will strive to keep carbon emissions at 2005 levels.


That said, I think we have a right to be skeptical — given the Bush-like doubletalk from the Chinese foreign minister and especially given that Wen seems utterly unaware the first half of the commitment is utterly meaningless.

After all, China’s GDP growth in the last few years has been about 10% per year. If that growth is maintained, then GDP will rise over 60% in five years — which means energy use could rise 40% 29% (!) over thost 5 years, and China would still hit its target to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent (per unit of GDP). That would do nothing to “reduce carbon emissions.”

Let’s hope Wen doesn’t mean China will strive to keep carbon emissions (per unit of GDP) at 2005 levels.

If he does mean an absolute cap on China’s emissions, then this is stunning news and means a global deal is almost certainly possible — once we have a new President.

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4 Responses to The Story of the Week (if true): China wants to freeze emissions at 2005 levels

  1. tidal says:

    Just to be clear on the metrics… if China were to increase it’s GDP by 10%/yr for 5 years AND reduce energy consumption by 20% per unit GDP, then it’s GDP would grow by ~61%, but energy consumption would grow by ~ 28%, not the 40% you indicate. (E.g. 1 * 1.1^5 * .8 = 1.288).

    And, yes, he does seem to be conflating energy, energy intensity and carbon emissions in his statements, but it is at least possible that he means that they expect/hope carbon emissions to fall even faster than energy/GDP.

    I agree that this would be very hopeful. IF, and that is a big if, he means that national emissions would be held at 2005 levels, it would suggest that China would be freezing per capita CO2e emissions @ ~ 4 tonnes. And then some dialogue on contraction and convergence, and likely cap & trade implications would ensue.

    On the other hand, it is hard to see how he can make this pledge. Their emissions by late-2007 have already soared past the 2005 levels, and their super-charged economy is akin to a bicycle… to keep it from crashing, you need to keep pedalling… so this would be quite extraordinary if he really means capping their emissions amidst trying to sustain that economic growth trajectory…

  2. Joe says:

    Tidal: Yes, 29%, not 40%. Duh! Thanks! Happy Turkey Day!

  3. jcwinnie says:

    O.K., George, it’s your turn. George? GEORGE?

  4. Jay Alt says:

    The Chinese have adopted Luntz language and Bush beliefs and wish to negotiate “energy intensity” and not emissions. Ala Christopher Horner of the CEI and his misinformed book. And their offers doesn’t even match the useless goals touted by Bush & Howard at the APEC summit.

    from page 3 –
    “APEC Action Agenda

    highlight the importance of improving energy efficiency by working towards
    achieving an APEC-wide regional aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity
    of at least 25 per cent by 2030 (with 2005 as the base year); “