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10 China Myths for the New Decade- Myth #10: carbon emissions

Posted by Author on February 8, 2010

Derek Scissors, Ph.D., Research Fellow in Asia Economic Policy in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, via http://www.heritage.org, January 28, 2010 –

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Myth #10: China has an official program to substantially cut its carbon emissions.

Truth: The goal is to cut carbon emissions intensity. Actual emissions will soar in the next decade.

China has not vowed to cut emissions but rather emissions intensity, in this case measured in emissions per unit of GDP. That is, the commitment is to reduce emissions only relative to the size of the economy; if China’s economy continues to grow, so will total emissions. And GDP comes in multiple flavors, with different kinds of inflation adjustments plus adjustments for the currency being used. This leaves a great deal of room to maneuver.

China’s 2005 carbon dioxide emissions, for instance, were approximately 5.43 billion tons, or approximately 2.95 tons of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 yuan of GDP.[22] The pledge is to cut carbon emissions intensity by 40 percent to 45 percent from the 2005 level, which would put emissions intensity near 1.75 tons carbon dioxide per 10,000 yuan of GDP.

From 2000 to 2009, simple GDP in yuan increased about 3.7 times. If that rate of nominal growth continues for the next decade, simple GDP will approach 135 trillion yuan in 2019. Using the target emissions intensity, carbon emissions in 2019 would more than quadruple over 2005, past 23 billion tons.

This is a numerical worst case and it is far more likely that China’s pledge refers to some adjusted version, not simple GDP. But which adjustment?

The difference between the arithmetic change of GDP from year to year and real GDP growth is called the deflator. It is all but impossible to make sense of China’s GDP deflator over time. With 10 years to play with, the Communist Party can announce whatever adjusted GDP it wants. Carbon dioxide emissions are unlikely to quadruple, but they very possibly will double, and Beijing will still be able to claim success in its intensity program.

Amid all the uncertainty, the best bet for the next decade is that the PRC rejects international estimates of its emissions the way it rejects international monitoring now. Beijing will substitute its own measurements, which will have some familiar magical properties. (to be cont’d)

Original from The Heritage Foundation

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