The growth in China’s CO2 emissions is far outpacing previous estimates, making the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases even more difficult, according to a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and UC San Diego. The study is scheduled for print publication in the May issue of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, say the region that includes China will see a 2.5% to 5% annual increase in CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2010. The new UC analysis pegs China’s annual growth rate at 11%, at a minimum, for the same time period. In contrast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports U.S. CO2 emissions decreased 1.3% in 2006 from the previous year. Data for 2007 is not yet available.

The researchers’ most conservative forecast predicts that by 2010 there will be an increase of 600 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China over the country’s levels in 2000. This growth from China alone would dramatically overshadow the 116 million metric tons of carbon emissions reductions pledged by all the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol and surpassed those of the U.S. last year.

Put another way, the projected annual increase in China alone over the next several years is greater than the current emissions produced by either Great Britain or Germany.

The authors pointed out that after 2000, China’s central government began shifting the responsibility for building new power plants to provincial officials, who had less incentive and fewer resources to build cleaner, more efficient plants, which save money in the long run but are more expensive to construct. Government officials turned away from energy efficiency as an objective to expanding power generation as quickly and cheaply as they could. Wealthier coastal provinces tended to build clean-burning power plants based upon the very best technology available, but many of the poorer interior provinces replicated inefficient 1950s Soviet technology.

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