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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