CO2 “need not slow China’s growth”

Accelerating levels of greenhouse-gas emissions are not an inevitable part of China’s economic growth, according to a British-Chinese study published in the journal Nature. But, the research showed, separating carbon emissions from economic development — for example, by improved energy efficiency and huge renewable-energy investment -- requires fast, determined action by China.

The analysis came in a paper called China’s Energy Transition: Pathways for Low Carbon Development, by Tao Wang and Jim Watson of Britain’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. They conclude that if China’s carbon emissions peak between 2020 and 2030, the country will make a “full contribution” to global efforts to combat climate change, without sacrificing economic growth.

Their report — which is being presented to Chinese government officials, energy experts and climate scientists in Beijing — “is not intended to be prescriptive”, according to Watson, an energy-policy specialist. “We’re not saying that China needs to actually reduce its emissions,” he told Nature, “and we were keen not to develop economic storylines outside the range of economic possibilities.”


The report’s four scenarios describe possible emission pathways towards a low-carbon future for China that would not much hinder its economic aspirations. All four include nuclear power to some degree. Three out of four include carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions from burning coal, China’s most abundant fossil fuel.


Watson and Wang, an environmental economist, have based their cautiously more optimistic analysis on data from the International Energy Agency and various Chinese sources. The measure of its success, said Watson, is whether the Chinese government will be interested in the study, and willing to discuss its findings further.


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