November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009 | Commentary on Climate Change

Fictional Route to Low-Carbon China

Sir, Gordon Conway's outline of China's path to a low-carbon economy ("Beijing seeks a head start in the race to go green", November 12) leaps past speculative, into fictional.

Sir Gordon opens with a claim that Chinese leaders understand that "following the traditional economic model is not an option". That can only be an extremely recent understanding, since China's response to the economic crisis has featured heavy stimulus specifically targeted at car purchases and historically unprecedented stockpiling of mineral resources to fuel the present re-acceleration of industrial production.

He cites the possibility of Chinese carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product falling by 20 per cent during the 12th five-year plan. Even if this is accomplished, Chinese carbon emissions - by a good margin the world's largest -- would still rise by 20 per cent or so, a much faster rate of climb than the US or European Union.

He claims that "50 per cent of generating capacity [will be] coming from low-carbon sources by 2030". This appears to be simple error. The current Chinese goal for renewables is 15 per cent by 2020, where actual power use will be lower.

Most important, Sir Gordon has a vision for the future in which many wonderful things occur in China over the next 40 years. In the past 10 years, the period of China's economic ascent on the world stage, the State Statistical Bureau has Chinese coal production moving from 978m tons to 2.9bn tons. One is fact, one verges too close to fantasy.

Derek Scissors is a research fellow in Asia economic policy at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Derek Scissors, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow
Asian Studies Center

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