Tuesday, June 05, 2007

China tells us what we already know

China’s much heralded ‘action plan’ to address global warming does not say much that is new. China will ‘integrate climate change policy’ into its industrial and energy sectors, but will not sacrifice economic growth to satisfy international demands. We have heard this before.

It will combat global warming through energy saving, agricultural adaptation, and forest expansion. These are all ‘no regrets’ options – China needs to do these things anyway. Chinese energy efficiencies are very low so it is prudent to try to improve them irrespective of climate change.

The difficulty is that the US, China and Indonesia are the world’s three biggest greenhouse gas emitters. US’s emissions are 6 billion tonnes annually, China’s are 5 billion tonnes and Indonesia’s are 3 billion tonnes.

The Chinese blueprint also says developed nations must bear ‘the most blame’ for greenhouse gas emissions. It claims that China has the ‘right’ to develop and that not developing will create bigger costs than climate change.

China welcomed proposals on global warming by US President Bush (15 top polluting nations, including China and Australia to discuss climate change and agree on long-term goals to combat global warming by end 2008) but stressed that new agreements should not displace the Kyoto Protocol – they don’t want this to change since under Kyoto they are not obliged to do anything.

The detailed plan itself has not been released.

My preferred option is for China to be part of a global emissions trading scheme with relatively large initial carbon allocations that woould grow at a moderate rate until it reaches developed country status. These carbon credits could be purchased by developed countries and the funds released used to purchase carbon-friendly technology in China.

Unless China starts to try seriously to meet carbon targets in the short-term the main effect of pricing carbon in developed countries will be to shift polluting industries offshore. The environment will not be improved.

If China (and the US and Indonesia) do not comply they should be hit with strong tariffs on its exports that reflect their unpriced carbon content. The international community can force these grubs to clean up their act if they are unprepared to do so themselves.


Anonymous said...

Hi Harry,

I am afraid I am a bit concerned about the likelihood of success of pressure on China - and am particularly wary of Australia making any major sacrifices wrt global warming. If we replace "reducing carbon emmissions" with "reducing trade barriers" the effect of even groups of countries larger than Australia on countries with trade barriers seems to be minor. Countries (Europe, China, the US) will act if it is in their interest (or not too costly to do so). Whether we clean up our act on carbon emmissions is probably going to have the same effect cleaning up our act on trade barriers had. The exception is if we can show some other private gains to taking action.

Anonymous said...

so, er harry, now that China has basically told everyone to take a hike what do you think we ought to do about emissions seeing those guys would take our?slack in a few months?

conrad said...

I don't think China has told everyone to take a hike -- its clear that whilst they don't care about what other countries want, they do intend to to do something. Some of these things are certainly in their own interest in any case (like reforesetation). I think it reasonable to suspect that the central government simply does not have a good strategy about what to do -- its not like the central government really has much power over all the provinces on these sorts of issues (not unlike the US).

Its also no suprise they don't care about what other countries think, especially given that per head, developed countries are miles higher on emissions, and either they don't care either (US, Australia), or they say they care but don't do anything (a number of other European countries).