Oct 29, 2009
China outperforms US on green issues
China is often accused of not doing enough to reduce the carbon dioxide and other pollution pouring from its factories and coal-fuelled power stations. But a new report suggests the country is doing more to tackle climate change than it gets credit for: in fact, its environmental standards surpass the US in some key measures.
The World Resources Institute (WRI), a respected environmental think tank based in Washington DC, says China is on track to meet its main climate change target, which is a 20 per cent reduction in energy intensity – the amount of energy used per dollar of gross domestic product – by the end of next year. Cutting the energy intensity of the Chinese economy like this will put a brake on the growth of the country's carbon dioxide emissions
China is also making good progress towards its goal of generating 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, according to the report. By the end of the next decade it will have 150 gigawatts of wind power installed – over five times the current US level. One in 10 Chinese homes already has solar heaters, with the number growing by 20 per cent per year.
China's coal-fuelled power stations are also more efficient that those in the US. The thermal efficiency of US stations – the fraction of heat turned into electrical energy – plateaued at just under 33 per cent in the early 1960s. But the efficiency of China's stations has been rising steadily and now exceeds 35 per cent.
The WRI says that China's progress shows the country is serious about climate change and that its reluctance to set a cap on its emissions, a stance that has been much criticised in the US, should not be a barrier to international collaboration.
"China is making substantial progress in controlling its emissions of climate gases," says Deborah Seligsohn, the author of the WRI report. "The challenge for US-China collaboration in climate change mitigation is for each country to understand the other's approaches, and to find creative solutions when those approaches don't align."