Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley who is writing a book and China and global warming, has written a guest post on the Climate Progress blog answering the question, “Can China go green?“:
After Saturday’s sputtering end of the U.N. climate talks in Poznan, Poland, it’s clearer than ever that the fate of the post-Kyoto negotiations will depend on whether China can be coaxed to adopt some sort of carbon emissions limits. But as this tug of war plays out in the next year and beyond, what’s most important is not what China says on the diplomatic front but what it does on the home front.
The news on that score is mixed at best. On Friday, the central government admitted that the country is sliding backward in its crucial benchmark for its campaign to increase energy efficiency throughout the economy. The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s super-cabinet agency for economic policy, announced that energy consumption per unit of GDP (what the Chinese call “energy intensity”) fell 3.46 percent over the first three quarters. That’s well below the goal of a 20 percent reduction from 2006 to 2010, which would require 4 percent annual reduction. In fact, 2008 will be the third successive year to fail to reach the benchmark. (The figures for 2006 and 2007 were 1.79 percent and 3.66 percent respectively.) Even worse, the pace of improvement slackened notably during this year’s third quarter, with energy intensity falling only 0.58 percent.
All of this is especially bad news because the energy intensity campaign has been the Chinese government’s single most prominent initiative related to global warming.