Towards a Low-Carbon Economy
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Chapter 3: Is it Fair to Treat China as a Christmas Tree to Hang Everybody’s Complaints? Putting its Own Energy Saving into Perspective
1 INTRODUCTION 1. China had been the world’s second largest carbon emitter behind the US for years. Based on the trends in the 1980s and 1990s, the US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) estimated that China’s CO2 emissions are not expected to catch up with the US, the world’s largest carbon emitter by 2030 (US EIA, 2004). This seems to have been implanted in people’s minds until the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicated in April 2007 that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest carbon emitter in 2007 or 2008. The Chinese senior official at the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change immediately rebutted that claim, criticizing the lack of statistical evidence.2 This early remark by the IEA had been incorporated into the findings of its flagship report World Energy Outlook 2007, reaffirming that China was already ranked number one as world’s largest carbon emitter in 2007 (IEA, 2007). Another study estimates that China’s CO2 emissions surpassed those of the US by 8 percent in 2006 (MNP, 2007). It is conceivable that China will argue that its high absolute emission levels are the combined effects of a large population, a coal-fueled economy and being the workshop of the world, the latter of which leads to a hefty chunk of China’s emissions embedded in goods that are exported to industrialized countries. China’s arguments are legitimate. The country has every right to do that. After all, China’s share of the world’s cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions from 1900 to 2005 was...
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