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China's emissions growth exponential

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China’s emissions growth exponential

New evidence of massive growth in greenhouse gas emissions from China must strongly qualify claims, such as those from ANU Centre for Climate Economics and Policy director Frank Jotzo this week, that China seemed serious about significant reductions in emissions growth - and we should therefore triple our reduction target to stay in step.

Senator Boswell said Mr Jotzo’s comments on China, to bolster a case for Australia to increase its target for emission reductions by 2020 from 5% to 15%, had to be set against the big picture of China’s emissions.

United States chief climate change negotiator Todd Stern was reported this week as declaring that the latest data from the Chinese Academy of Science predicts Chinese emissions, which were 5.2 billion tonnes in 2005, will almost double to between 9.6 and 10.1 billion metric tonnes over the next ten years.

To put those numbers in perspective, Australia’s commitment is to a 5% reduction on 2000 emissions of 558 million tonnes by 2020. That would put our 2020 emissions at around 530 million tonnes - or about 1/20th of China’s.

Other recent assessments of Chinese economic activity underscores the inevitability of ongoing massive growth in emissions there.

For example, Chinese investment in power stations and the transmission grid will be almost $100 billion in 2010 to meet annual growth in demand for electricity consistently running in double digits. To put that extraordinary number in perspective, Australia’s total current investment in power stations and the transmission grid is approximately $70 billion.

Another measure is that China has recently overtaken the United States as the biggest vehicle market in the world with sales this year expected to reach 17 million - and 19 million next year. To put those numbers in perspective, Australia’s total vehicle fleet is 15.7 million, and sales last year were just under one million.

“The government, and some commentators, are working very hard to try and contradict the Coalition’s stance that unilateral action by Australia on a carbon price, ahead of action by the major emitters of the world, would be economic suicide,” Senator Boswell said.

“There is no doubt that China is seeking to improve its emissions intensity relative to production, but there is no commitment from China for any net reduction in emissions, and the potential for any reduction over the next decade is clearly a nonsense.

“What is happening in China, especially, and in the other countries being cited by the government and the likes of Mr Jotzo, are not valid prompts for Australia to impose massive costs on households and businesses.

“If we were to move to a 15% reduction target, as espoused by the likes of Mr Jotzo and the Greens, we would simply destroy the Australian economy without creating a blip on the greenhouse abatement radar.”


26 October 2010 B2010/57