Below is an abridged English translation of an article by Wang Jing that appeared in China’s Science Times on September 7, 2009.
The upcoming Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in December will have a deep impact on the economic development of every country. Many major, economically strong, countries will come together to discuss climate change and craft a greenhouse gas emission agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, signed in December 1997.
As the biggest carbon emitter in the world, China will certainly be pressured on carbon emission from developed countries. Currently China is at the peak of economic development and any reduction of carbon emissions is considered a fantasy by Chinese experts.
But what kind of gesture should Chinese make at the Copenhagen conference? How can China fight for its right to emit while continuing to develop its economy?
Recently, Ding Zhongli, an academician and the vice president of the Science Academy of China, published a research paper titled “2050 Atmospheric CO2 Concentration Control: Emission Rights Calculation for Each Country” on Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences (Vol. 39, No.8, 1009 -1027, 2009). That paper detailed the historical CO2 emission data of developed countries and their economic development and provides fresh thinking on how China can win the argument during the carbon emission negotiations.
Emission rights are development rights
All developed countries, without exception, became developed through high-speed industrial growth, and that growth inevitably resulted in intense utilization of fossil energy and massive CO2 emissions. In the US, CO2 annual per capita emissions increased by an average rate of 5 percent during 1901 to 1910; Germany averaged 9.9 percent during 1947 to 1957; Japan averaged 12 percent during 1960 to 1970. Therefore, emission rates correlate with development rates and emission rights are development rights. However, in exactly the era that China puts its full effort on economic development, some developed countries are proposing CO2 emission cuts.
The IPCC’s estimate of a global temperature increase of 2.5 degrees C due to CO2 emissions increase is an average value obtained by some meteorologists through multiple model calculations. Ding’s report found that there is no solid scientific evidence to strictly correlate global temperature rise and CO2 concentrations. Some geologists believe that global temperature is related to solar activities and glacial periods. At least human activity is not the only factor to cause the global temperature increase. Up to now not a single scientist has figured out the weight ratio of each factor on global temperature change.
However, the massive propaganda “human activity induced the global temperature increase” has been accepted by the majority of the society in some countries, and it has become a political and diplomatic issue. Why do the developed countries put an arguable scientific problem on the international negotiation table? The real intention is not for the global temperature increase, but for the restriction of the economic development of the developing countries, and for keeping their own advantageous positions.
Cumulative emission per capita reflects more fair and justified principle
… Ding’s research shows that cumulative emission per capita indicates the economic level of a country. By 1960, US emission per capita was 234.48 tC (tons of carbon); Britain’s level was 177.17 tC; Canada’s level was 149.49 tC; and France’s level was 73.56 tC. However, the cumulative emission per capita for China was only 24.14 tC from 1900 to 2005. China’s GDP per capita in 2005 was much lower than that of the average of the developed countries in 1960.
If the global temperature increase indeed is the result of human activity, controlling the CO2 concentration should be the historical responsibility of each country that has already emitted CO2. About 70 to 80 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere has been emitted by the developed countries. The cumulative emission per capita from Britain and US is about 1,100 tC, the cumulative emission per capita from China and India are only 66 tCO2 and 23 tCO2, respectively. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that the historical emission of the developed countries directly resulted in the global temperature increase, if the claimed correlation is to be accepted.
Nevertheless, after emitting greenhouse gases for over a century and imagining a horrible consequence, the developed countries now strongly require that the developing countries also bear the historical responsibility. As is well known, the long time biggest emitter, the US first refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and then asked that China provides its emission reduction goal. On June 27, 2008, the then-British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said in Tokyo that to avoid the risk of extreme climate change, all countries have to adjust their national economic structure. But only the promise of change by the developed countries is not enough for developing countries. It is truly hegemony.
Internationally there are two ways to control atmospheric CO2 concentration, one is to emphasize on reduction of emissions, another is to emphasize emission quotas. … Ding’s research indicates that whenever there are conflicts between the international climate framework and US domestic economic development, the climate policies are adjusted to protect the economic development and business interests. Since the 1950s, US academics led in global climate change studies and have made significant contributions on this issue. However, the US government policy started to change in the late 1980s. The first Bush administration appeared sluggish on the climate issue. The climate policy of the Clinton administration was active internationally, but inactive internally. The second Bush administration became even more hesitant and instead of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, they structured a replacement for Kyoto Protocol “Clear Skies & Global Climate Change Initiatives” to put the US in a good position for economic development. Therefore, it is necessary for China to insist on emission quotas to ensure a continuous economic development.
The G8 meeting held in Italy in July 2009 proposed to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent globally and by 80 percent for G8 countries by 2050. … It looks like the developed countries contribute more on reducing emission, but if using 1900 level as the baseline, the average cumulative emission per capita for G8 countries is 356.58 tC, compared to 59.95 tC per capita for all the other countries. Ding’s calculations indicate that the average cumulative emission per capital of G8 countries from 1990 to 2050 would be 3 times more than that of other countries. Therefore, the G8 proposal is extremely unfair….
Currently the need for fossil energy in China is enormous. China can use the “cumulative emission quota per capita” strategy to gain favorable status. Ding’s research categorized countries with population over 300,000 into four different groups according to four indices:
1.due quota between 1900 and 2050,
2.actual emission between 1900 and 2005,
3.2005 emission level, and
4.emission average increase rate from 1996 to 2005.
He concluded that although China is in the group that needs to reduce the emission increase rate, China can strive for more emission rights since China could get over 30 percent of the global emissions quota.