A new report suggests that the world’s leading CO2 emitter, China, could double its emissions by 2030. China states that this increase is due to manufacturing for Western markets.
China is now the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide according to the 2008 China Energy Report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The CAS asserts that, without the introduction of counter-measures, greenhouse-gas emissions will double in the next two decades. Although the CAS calls for the Chinese government to act to reduce emissions, it says that such measures must not curtail economic growth.
The CAS findings contradict a report issued by the Chinese government in 2008, which estimated that the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions would only reach 2 billion tonnes by 2050. China has now overtaken the USA in terms of CO2 emissions. Thanks to a thriving economy, annual CO2 emissions are expected to reach 2.5 billion tonnes by 2020 and 4 billion tonnes by 2030 – global emissions for 2007 were 8.5 billion tonnes.
This report only addresses CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and not those resulting from other activities, such as forest clearing and farming. These alternative methods of CO2 generation are thought to contribute as much as a third of China's emissions.
However, when China's total emissions are divided over its large population, they equal a mere 3.7 tonnes per person. This places China far behind most developed nations. For example, the USA has a per-capita emissions level of 20.6 tonnes a year, while the EU-27 average is 8.6 tonnes. Qatar is the leading emitter with 64.14 tonnes per person. The OECD estimates that despite rapid economic growth China's CO2 emission per capita will remain below developed countries levels for years to come.
China suggests its emissions are the product of manufacturing for western economies. Indeed, half of the rise in China’s CO2 emissions is attributable to manufacturing goods for other countries – particularly developing nations. China does not accept responsibility for the emissions involved in producing goods for foreign markets.
This claim has some weight. For instance, in the UK, there has been an 18% reduction in CO2 emissions since 1990. However, results published by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in a project for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) suggests once imports, exports and international transport are accounted for, the UK has in reality increased its emissions by 20% over the same period.
At present, a third of all Chinese carbon emissions are the result of producing goods for export. According to the Oslo Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), 9% of China’s emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for the USA and 6% for the European market.