Bloomberg News

China Emissions Rising While Carbon Intensity Falls, Report Says

October 04, 2011

Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Greenhouse-gas emissions in China are rising faster than forecast even as the level of pollution relative to its economic growth falls, according to a report from climate researchers.

An economy that’s expanding faster than projected will push China’s overall emissions about 1 gigaton higher in 2020 than previous calculations predicted, according to a report issued today by Utrecht, Netherlands-based Ecofys, a renewable-energy consultant, and Climate Analytics, a group hosted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. The world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter is also keeping a promise to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide needed for increased production, the groups said in the report.

“The warming levels that we’re headed toward” might “easily result in massive damage to ecosystems from one end of the planet to the other,” Bill Hare, a senior scientist with Climate Analytics, said at a press conference in Panama City during UN climate talks. “As for the human dimensions of risk, we would see, particularly in Africa, very dangerous threats to food production and availability.”

Pledges to reduce emissions from China, the U.S. and other countries already fall short of what’s needed to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times, Hare said. Warming above that level poses risks to ecosystems and food supplies, he said.

Negotiators in Panama City from almost 200 countries are discussing a global treaty to limit greenhouse gases, which scientists link to climate change. The meeting, which continues until Oct. 7, is the last formal negotiating session before the annual UN climate conference, being held this year in Durban.

Economic Growth

Last year, China promised at talks in Cancun, Mexico, to lower so-called carbon intensity 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. The measure is the amount of carbon dioxide produced for every unit of economic growth, according to Niklas Hohne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys who helped write the report, said at the press conference.

China’s pledge was based on a growth estimate of 7 percent a year while the economy has expanded more than 10 percent a year, Hohne said. President Hu Jintao first offered to tie his country’s greenhouse-gas emissions to economic expansion in a 2010 speech to the United Nations.

“If economic growth is faster than expected, then it’s actually easier to implement the pledge,” Hohne said.

‘Increasingly Concerned’

While the U.S. offered to cut emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels, President Barack Obama has experienced “difficulties” in advancing policies that contribute to the goal, according to the report.

If the U.S. fails to take steps to lower emissions before 2015, larger and more costly annual reductions will be needed to meet the target, according to the report.

“Experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the ability of the United States to meet the 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels that President Obama had announced and has reinforced several times,” Hare said. Policy delays mean “the rate of reductions required increase substantially to 3 percent or more a year, going toward the level where economists would start to say this looks like a very ambitious and difficult task.”

The negotiators in Panama City are working on a system to verify emissions pledges offered by nations. Without a confirmation process, public confidence in reports from nations such as China and Brazil suffers, Hare said.

“It’s very clear from the enormous amount of scientific hours that we’ve had to spend getting to the bottom of country pledges that unless we agree on a multilateral monitoring, reporting and verification system for emissions, it’s going to be very difficult for the public to actually know what governments are doing,” Hare said.

--Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Efstathiou Jr. in Panama City at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at

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