Sunday, August 22, 2010

China tries to cut CO2 emissions to meet required limits

From PhysOrg:
China, facing the risk of embarrassment if it misses a looming environmental deadline, has ordered thousands of companies to close high-polluting plants as its leadership vies to retool economic growth.

Beijing has pledged to slash China's energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter seeks to reduce pollution and clean up its environment.


Leaders in Beijing have been keen to promote their green credentials.

Ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen last year, they pledged to reduce China's carbon intensity -- the measure of greenhouse gas emitted per unit of economic activity -- by 40-45 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels.

I had written about the relationship between GDP and CO2 and why such a relationship -- especially as a comparison between countries -- is misleading. However, I suppose that it's the way in which governments set their limits. I ran the numbers to see what China needs to do in order to get to reach their 2010 and 2020 goals.
  • Assuming CO2 emissions from 2006 were 1,498.905,000 tons, then a 20% reduction by the end of 2010 would mean that the total for 2010 needs to be no more than 1,199,124,000 tons.
  • Assuming CO2 emissions from 2005 were 1,385,607,000 tons, then a 40% reduction by the end of 2020 would mean that the total for 2040 needs to be no more than 831,364,000 tons.
This means that even if China were to make its 2010 requirements, it will need to continue reducing CO2 emissions over the next 10 years by about 36,700 tons each year. And if we assume that China will continue to average a 9% growth rate over the next 10 years (which is very optimistic, but even the IMF is projecting a 9%+ growth rate over 2010 and 2011), then we can project (very, very roughly) the following CO2/GDP relationships, based on different scenarios (on the right).
  • CO2/GDP*1000: the historical data
  • +8%CO2/+9%GDP: business as usual (based on projections of average CO2 and GDP growth over the previous 10 years)
  • 0%CO2/+9%GDP: the total CO2 output doesn't change from the 2009 levels
  • CO2commit/+9%GDP: China meets its 2010 obligation and works to cut CO2 by 36,700 each year
  • -7%CO2/+9%GDP: the amount of annual CO2 reduction necessary to meet the 2020 obligation
Although the -7%CO2/+9%GDP scenario would likely be less difficult to meet than the CO2commit/+9%GDP scenario, it would be difficult for China to justify it in the international stage. As the PhysOrg story points out:
"If Beijing fails to hit the 2010 target by a wide margin, its credibility on climate change commitments will be subject to a great deal of international scepticism," said Damien Ma, an analyst with the New York-based Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm.

SIDE NOTE: Although I don't like the CO2/GDP relationship, by keeping the future GDP scenarios constant across the four future scenarios, it makes them comparable against each other.

DATA SOURCES: I used the same data sources as listed in this post.

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