China's Carbon Intensity Changes Sharply (but…)

china carbon intensity

Well, this has been a week of big news for environmentalists — big good news and big bad news. On the bad news side, we can see that Americans used more fossil fuelsagain in 2010, after falling to a 12-year low in the midst of the economic recession, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index showed that greenhouse gas emissions rose between 2009 and 2010 (note: we’re supposed to be cutting emissions now!). The good news: the huge Keystone XL tar sands (or oil sands) pipeline (referred to as “the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” or “game over” for the climate according to environmentalists and climate scientists) has been delayed or permanently stopped. And now, we’ve got this good news as well:

China’s carbon intensity has sharply dropped from 2006-2010. Carbon intensity is a measure of a country’s carbon emissions compared to its GDP — a higher carbon intensity is bad.

While China is now the largest carbon emitter in the world, increasing 33.6% from 2006 to 2010, it’s carbon intensity has dropped 20.8% in that time. This is no surprise to people who follow Chinese energy policy, I think, as China has surged forward on clean energy investment and deployment, as well as energy efficiency, probably more than any other major nation.

The report, released by Tsinghua University this week, is not all possible, though.

China’s Carbon Emissions Still Rising Rapidly

“It says central authorities’ goal of controlling coal use in the next five years will be unattainableso long as local governments remain reluctant to use less energy while they pursue economic growth,” China Daily reports.

“If you consider their growth targets together, you can see they are significantly higher than the annual growth goal of 7 percent set by the central government for the country’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) period,” said Qi Ye, editor-in-chief of the report.

“As a result, by 2015, the annual consumption of energy is expected to be equivalent to burning 4.6 billion tons of coal a year, according to the provincial targets. That’s 500 million more tons than would be entailed by the amount of energy consumption called for in the central government’s estimates.”

Also, despite massive investment in clean energy (1.73 trillion yuan, or $272.8 billion from 2006-2010), the percentage of China’s energy that comes from coal has increased from 68% to 70%, due to China’s rapid growth and increasing energy demand. China’s energy use for each unit of its economic growth has decreased by 19.1%, but a ton of growth still means increasing energy use and carbon emissions.

China’s 2020 plan entails reducing its carbon intensity 40-45% on 2005 levels, but will that be enough?

Image via !/_PeacePlusOne

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