In what format and under what timeframe would China take on climate commitments? A roadmap to 2050
- 590 Downloads
Balancing China’s energy needs to fuel its rapid economic growth with the resulting potential impacts of climate change presents an enormous climate policy dilemma, not simply for China but for the entire world. This is the major reason why the role of China is an issue of perennial concerns at international climate change negotiations. In response to these concerns and to put China in a positive position, this paper maps out a realistic roadmap for China’s specific climate commitments toward 2050. Taking many factors into consideration, the paper argues that China needs to take on absolute emissions caps around 2030. However, it is hard to imagine how China could apply the brakes so sharply as to switch from rapid emissions growth to immediate emissions cuts, without passing through several intermediate phases. To that end, the paper envisions that China needs the following three transitional periods of increasing climate obligations before taking on absolute emissions caps that will lead to the global convergence of per capita emissions by 2050: First, further credible energy conservation commitments starting in 2013 and aimed at cutting China’s carbon intensity by 46–50% by 2020; second, voluntary “no lose” emission targets starting in 2018; and third, binding carbon intensity targets as its international commitment starting in 2023. Overall, this proposal is a balanced reflection of respecting China’s rights to grow and recognizing China’s growing responsibility for increasing greenhouse gas emissions as China is on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy.
KeywordsCarbon intensity target Binding emissions caps Post-Copenhagen climate negotiations China United States India
Carbon capture and storage
Clean development mechanism
Emissions allowance requirements
Gross domestic product
Parts per million
The May 2009 version of this paper has benefited from comments from two anonymous referees and the editor. The paper was presented at the Second International Wuppertal Colloquium on Sustainable Growth, Resource Productivity and Sustainable Industrial Policy, Wuppertal, Germany, 10–12 September 2009; the International Workshop on Reconciling Domestic Energy Needs and Global Climate Policy: Challenges and Opportunities for China and India, Venice, 15 March 2010; and the International Symposium on Climate Change and National Security: Securing Better Forecasts, University of California at San Diego, 21–23 June 2010. That said, the views expressed here are those of the author. The author bears sole responsibility for any errors and omissions that may remain.
- ClimateWire. (2009). India rejects comparison with China’s emissions. 26 March.Google Scholar
- Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations (UNDESA). (2009). World population prospects: The 2008 revision. Available at: http://esa.un.org/unpp.
- EIA. (2004). International energy outlook 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).Google Scholar
- EIA. (2009). International energy outlook 2009. DOE/EIA-0484(2009), Washington, DC: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 27 May.Google Scholar
- Ellerman, A. D., Convery, F. J., & de Perthuis, C. (2010). Pricing carbon: The European Union emissions trading scheme. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- ENB. (2010). Summary of the Bonn climate talks: 2–6 August 2010. Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), 12(478), 9 August, available at: http://www.iisd.ca/climate/ccwg11/compilatione.pdf
- Fisher, D. (2004). National governance and the global climate change regime. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Frankel, J. A. (2009). An elaborated global climate policy architecture: Specific formulas and emission targets for all countries in all decades. NBER Working Paper No. 14876, April.Google Scholar
- Global CCS Institute. (2010). The status of CCS projects interim report 2010. Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar
- Gupta, J. (2000). “On behalf of my delegation,…” A survival guide for developing country climate negotiators. Washington, DC: Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas.Google Scholar
- Hu, A. (2009). A new approach at Copenhagen. 6 April, available at: http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/2895-A-new-approach-at-Copenhagen-2.
- IEA. (2007). World energy outlook 2007. Paris: International Energy Agency (IEA).Google Scholar
- IEA. (2009). World energy outlook 2009. Paris: International Energy Agency (IEA).Google Scholar
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2007). Climate change 2007: Mitigation of climate change. Working Group III Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). (2008). State of the CDM 2008: Facilitating a smooth transition into a mature environmental financing mechanism. Geneva, available at: http://www.ieta.org/ieta/www/pages/getfile.php?docID=3111.
- National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2009). China statistical yearbook 2009. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
- Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP). (2007). China now No. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position. 19 June.Google Scholar
- Reuters. (2009a). U.S. praises China’s climate efforts; urges more. 29 March, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE52S1WP20090329.
- Reuters. (2009b). U.S. seeks reins in new set of climate talks. 24 April, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE53N12720090424.
- Román, M., & Carson, M. (2009). Sea change: U.S. climate policy prospects under the Obama administration. Stockholm: Swedish Commission on Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
- Stern, N. (2008). Key elements of a global deal on climate change. London School of Economics and Political Science, London, April, available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/granthamInstitute/publications/KeyElementsOfAGlobalDeal_30Apr08.pdf.
- World Bank. (2007). Cost of pollution in China: Economic estimates of physical damage. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- World Bank. (2010). World development indicators 2010. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Zhang, Z. (1997). The economics of energy policy in China: Implications for global climate change. New Horizons in Environmental Economics Series, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
- Zhang, Z. (2007b). Why has China not embraced a global cap-and-trade regime? Climate Policy, 7(2), 166–170.Google Scholar
- Zhang, Z. (2010d). Assessing China’s carbon intensity pledge for 2020: Stringency and credibility issues and their implications. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10018-011-0012-4.
- Zhang, Z. (2011). Energy and environmental policy in China: Towards a low-carbon economy. New Horizons in Environmental Economics Series, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar