Australian apples and Chinese kumquats

In his 2011 Update of his Climate Change review report, Ross Garnaut makes much of China’s commitments to cutting the carbon intensity of its production which he suggests should motivate Australia to “do its fair share” to cut global carbon-dioxide emissions. But should it?

RG says China is well down the track: “pleasantly surprised” by their own success in cutting their carbon-intensity of production. But so what? China’s undertaking is a different kind of measure—with, very likely, a different rationale—than the tax he proposes for Australia. If the Gillard government’s proposed emissions tax were an apple, China’s intensity commitment would be…well, a rather tiny kumquat.

Here’s how the Financial Times energy correspondent summarizes China’s commitment to cutting the rate of growth of its emissions:

“if China continues to grow at an annual GDP growth rate of 7.8%,
  • AND continues to meet its aggressive energy intensity reduction goals,
  • AND installs all the renewable energy called for its current medium- & long-term renewable energy plan,
  • AND otherwise achieves a 4.8% annual growth rate in carbon efficiency, (which is significantly higher than the annualized amount of the target China just announced),
then it will more than double its 2005 carbon emissions by 2030. That doesn’t sound good.”

Extract from FT.com (emphasis added)

You can find a detailed evaluation of China’s plans in the McKinsey (2009) report on “China’s Green Revolution“. There are also more critical assessments than Dr Garnaut provides here at the aggressively-green US Natural Resources Defence Council and here at the more sceptical World Resources Institute.

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