Climate change in China

The position of the Chinese government on climate change is contentious. China has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but as a non-Annex I country which is not required to limit greenhouse gas emissions under terms of the agreement. In particular since 2007 the Chinese government hasn't changed it's attitude towards climate change policy and has become one of the major drivers of low-carbon technology developments.[1]

In 2002, on the basis of an analysis of fossil fuel consumption (including especially the coal power plants[2]) and cement production data, that China surpassed the United States as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, putting out 7,000 million tonnes, in comparison with America's 5,800 million.[3]

According to data from the US Energy Information Administration China was the top emitter by fossil fuels CO2 in 2009 China: 7,710 million tonnes (mt) (25.4%) ahead of US: 5,420 mt (17.8%), India: 5.3%, Russia: 5.2% and Japan: 3.6%.[4]

China was also the top emitter of all greenhouse gas emissions including building and deforestation in 2005: China: 7,220 mt (16.4%), US: 6,930 mt (15.7%), 3. Brazil 6.5%, 4. Indonesia: 4.6%, 5. Russia 4.6%, 6. India 4.2%, 7. Japan 3.1%, 8. Germany 2.3%, 9. Canada 1.8%, and 10. Mexico 1.6%.[4]

In the cumulative emissions between 1850 and 2007 the top emitters were: 1. US 28.8% 2. China: 9.0%, 3. Russia 8.0%, 4. Germany 6.9%, 5. UK 5.8%, 6. Japan 3.9%, 7. France 2.8%, 8. India 2.4%, 9. Canada 2.2% and 10. Ukraine 2.2%.[4]

According to BBC News, in September 2014, China surpassed the European Union's per capita carbon emissions for the first time in history. China's per capita carbon emissions now stand at 7.2 t/capita.[5] China's carbon emissions have increased rapidly since its economic boom in the early 2000s. Since then, their per capita carbon emissions have increased by more than 2.5 times.[6]

Total emissions

According to a statement made in The Economist in 2013, China has emitted more climate change gases from energy production than America since 2006 and by 2014-2015 China will emit twice America's total. At the present rate of development, cumulative Chinese emissions from energy production between 1990 and 2050 will equal those generated by the whole world from the beginning of the industrial revolution to 1970. About a quarter of China’s carbon emissions are produced in the manufacture of goods for export.[7]


China is the largest consumer of coal in the world.

In 2009, China produced 18,449 TWh of the world's total 39,340 TWh.[8]

China is now adding sulfur dioxide reducing technology to its power plants. It has been argued that the release of sulfur dioxide from burning coal has slowed global warming but has caused 4,698.3 deaths in the past decade.[9]

Effects of climate change

China can suffer some of the effects of global warming, including sea level rise, glacier retreat and air pollution.

The implications of climate change impose serious setbacks on global health and will hinder the economic development of various regions worldwide impacting countries on more than just the basic environmental scale. As in the case of China, we will see the effects on a social and economic level.

China’s first National Assessment of Global Climate Change, released recently by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), states that China already suffers from the environmental impacts of climate change: increase of surface and ocean temperature, rise of sea level.[10] Qin Dahe,former head of China’s Meteorological Administration, has said that the temperatures in the Tibetan Plateau of China are rising four times faster than anywhere else.[11] Rising sea level is an alarming trend because China has a very long and densely populated coastline, with some of the most economically developed cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou situated there. Chinese research has estimated that a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 92,000 square kilometres of China’s coast, thereby displacing 67 million.[12]

There has also been an increased occurrence of climate-related disasters such as drought and flood and the amplitude is growing. They have grave consequences for productivity when they occur, and also create serious repercussions for natural environment and infrastructure. This threatens the lives of billions and aggravates poverty.

Furthermore, climate change will worsen the uneven distribution of water resources in China. Outstanding rises in temperature would exacerbate evapo-transpiration intensifying the risk of water shortage for agricultural production in the North. While because of the southern region’s over abundance in rainfall, most of its water is lost due to flooding. As the Chinese government faces challenges managing its expanding population, an increased demand for water to support the nation’s economic activity and people will burden the government. In essence, a water shortage is indeed a large concern for the country.[12]

Lastly, climate change could endanger human health by increasing outbreaks of disease and their transmission. After floods, for example, infectious diseases such as diarrhea, cholera are all far more prevalent. These effects would exacerbate the degradation of the ecologically fragile areas in which poor communities are concentrated pushing thousands back into poverty.[13]


1 °C of regional mean warming is estimated to reduce wheat yield 3 to 10 percent in China. Grain crops mature earlier at higher temperatures, reducing the critical growth period and leading to lower yields (You et al. 2009).[14]


Some regions in China will be exposed to a 50 percent higher malaria transmission probability rate (Béguin et al., 2011).[14]


According to IPCC (2007) from 1900 to 2005 precipitation has declined in parts of southern Asia. By the 2050s freshwater availability including large river basins is projected to decrease in Asian regions. Coastal areas, specially the delta areas in Asia are projected to have increased flooding risk. Floods and droughts are expected to increase health concerns: diseases and mortality.[15]

Debate over China's economic responsibilities for climate change mitigation

Both internationally and within the People's Republic of China, there has been an ongoing debate over China's economic responsibilities for climate change mitigation.

Climate change mitigation measures

The People's Republic of China is an active participant in the climate change talks and other multilateral environmental negotiations, and claims to take environmental challenges seriously but is pushing for the developed world to help developing countries to a greater extent. It is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, although China is not required to reduce its carbon emissions under the terms of the present agreement.

China issued is first Climate Change Program in 2007, in response to its surpassing of the United States as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.[16] The Chinese national carbon trading scheme was later announced in November 2008 by the national government to enforce a compulsory carbon emission trading scheme across the country's provinces as part of its strategy to create a "low carbon civilisation".[17] The scheme would allow provinces to earn money by investing in carbon capture systems in those regions that fail to invest in the technology.[18]

In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao promised to use an "iron hand" to make China more energy efficient. China has surpassed the rest of the world as the biggest investor in wind turbines and other renewable energy technology. And it has dictated tough new energy standards for lighting and gas kilometrage for cars.[19] With $34.6 billion invested in clean technology in 2009, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy technologies.[20][21] China produces more wind turbines and solar panels each year than any other country.[22]

Coal is predicted to remain the most important power source in the near future but China has been seen as the world leader in clean coal technology.[23][24][25]

Nuclear power is planned to be rapidly expanded. By mid-century fast neutron reactors are seen as the main nuclear power technology which allows much more efficient use of fuel resources.[26]

China should push electric cars to curb its dependence on imported petroleum (oil) and foreign automobile technology, although they offer smaller cuts in carbon emissions than alternatives like hybrid electric vehicles, consulting firm McKinsey & Co says.[27]

A 2011 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report predicted that Chinese CO2 emissions will peak around 2030. This because in many areas such as infrastructure, housing, commercial building, appliances per household, fertilizers, and cement production a maximum intensity will be reached and replacement will take the place of new demand. The 2030 emissions peak also became China's pledge at the Paris COP21 summit. Carbon emission intensity may decrease as policies become strengthened and more effectively implemented, including by more effective financial incentives, and as less carbon intensive energy supplies are deployed. In a "baseline" computer model CO2 emissions were predicted to peak in 2033; in an "Accelerated Improvement Scenario" they were predicted to peak in 2027.[28]

See also


  1. Gippner, Olivia (2014) Framing it right: China-EU relations and patterns of interaction on climate change Chinese Journal of Urban and Environmental Studies, 2 (1). ISSN 2345-7481
  2. Coal power plants in China Map +oil use. (1999-02-22). Retrieved on 22 September 2002.
  3. "China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position". Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. 19 June 2007.
  4. 1 2 3 Which nations are most responsible for climate change? Guardian 21 April 2011
  5. , BBC News 21 September 2014
  6. , 23 September 2014,
  7. The east is grey The Economist 10 August 2013
  8. name=Sverigetab49>Energy in Sweden 2010, Facts and figures, The Swedish Energy Agency, Table 52: Global supply of coal 1990–2009 (TWh)
  9. David Biello, Stratospheric Pollution Helps Slow Global Warming, 22 July 2011, Scientific American,
  11. The Indus Equation Report, Strategic Foresight Group
  12. 1 2
  14. 1 2 Why a 4 degree centrigrade warmer world must be avoided November 2012 World Bank
  15. IPCC Working group III fourth assessment report, Summary for Policymakers 2007
  16. Andrews-Speed, Philip (November 2014). "China's Energy Policymaking Processes and Their Consequences". The National Bureau of Asian Research Energy Security Report. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  17. Climate Ark:China outlines plans for domestic carbon trading
  18. China outlines plans for domestic carbon trading
  19. Bradsher, Keith (4 July 2010). "China Fears Warming Effects of Consumer Wants". The New York Times.
  20. China Leads Major Countries With $34.6 Billion Invested in Clean Technology
  21. China steams ahead on clean energy
  22. Bradsher, Keith, 30 January 2010, China leads global race to make clean energy, New York Times
  24. China's coal reserves 'will make it new Middle East', says energy chief, Leo Hickman, Tuesday 8 March 2011, The Guardian,
  25. KEITH BRADSHER, China Outpaces U.S. in Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants, 10 May 2009, The New York Times,
  26. Nuclear Power in China, Updated March 2012, World Nuclear Association,
  27. LexisNexis® Publisher
  28. ChinaFAQs: China's Energy and Carbon Emissions Outlook to 2050, ChinaFAQs on 12 May 2011, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-17.

External links

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