June 12, 2007

China's National Climate Change Programme

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The big news in Beijing this past week was that the PRC’s National Development and Reform Commission released their first climate change commitment plan. Just 10 days ago, President Bush also made his first proposal for addressing greenhouse gas emissions: that by the end of his term, the U.S. and other nations would “set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.” Unfortunately, he maintained the U.S.’s rejection of mandatory caps on greenhouse gases, a critical component to successfully addressing climate change – and China has followed suit in its program as well.
With China projected to pass the U.S. as the world’s greatest emitter of CO2 within the next one to three years, it is unfortunate that China’s plan relies simply on a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency between 2006 and 2010. Although this is a positive step, it has little precedent for success, given that the PRC and local Chinese governments alike have made and then failed to achieve previous goals for improvements in energy use and emissions.
Moreover, it is not unreasonable for China to sweep this issue under the carpet, given that developed nations such as the U.S. and Australia have repeatedly done so. China’s excuse, that it is a developing nation which must put economic development before environmental protection, may not hold much water, but it’s difficult to expose that fallacy without developed nations like the U.S. leading the way.