Two new reports show China has developed into a 'carbonising dragon'

Hepeng Jia/Beijing, China 

China’s carbon dioxide emissions have kept growing quickly, shadowing worldwide efforts to fight global warming.

According to the report Long-term trend in global CO2 emissions, released in late September by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, global carbon dioxide emissions increased by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2010, with China being a main driving force.

’Due to its rapid economic development, per capita emissions in China are quickly approaching levels common in the industrialised countries,’ states the report. ’If the current trends in emissions by China and the industrialised countries including the US would continue for another seven years, China will overtake the US by 2017 as highest per capita emitter among the 25 largest emitting countries.’

According to the report, increased energy efficiency, nuclear energy and the rising share of renewable energies have not offset the growing emissions from China. However, Jiang Kejun, a senior research fellow at the Energy Research Institute under China’s National Development and Reform Commission, refutes the claims, saying that with the energy-saving measures being implemented, China’s growth in emissions growth will not continue at its current pace.

However, John Rhys, a senior research fellow at Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, UK, says that while people traditionally think that the rising emissions of developing countries will converge with the reducing emissions of industrialised countries, the findings of this report suggest that this convergence could be broken. One reason is that ’a large amount of China’s emissions is to make products for consumption in other parts of the world, particularly industrialised countries,’ he explains.

Building up trouble

A second report published in September, suggests that construction in China - with its carbon intensive supply chain - could explain the large growth in emissions between 2002 and 2007.1 The authors warn that without mitigation this will continue to be a problem. 


Source: © Thinkstock

A finger of blame for soaring Chinese carbon dioxide emissions is being pointed at the construction industry

’Emissions grow faster and faster, because CO2 intensive sectors linked to the building of infrastructure have become more and more dominant,’ lead author Jan Minx, from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, told Chemistry World. ’China has developed into a "carbonising dragon"’, he adds. 

Wang Weijia, a professor of energy research at Tsinghua University, China, admits that the reports are alarming, but says that China’s ’huge energy consumption is due to the demand for development, and we have many areas [that can] be improved’. 

These reports confirm that China needs to take more action if it is to meet its target of cutting emissions by 40-45 per cent per capita of GDP (gross domestic product) by 2020 as compared to 2005. And if Chinese GDP continues growing by 10 per cent annually, those reduced emissions would still be large.