Kate Mackenzie China talks about 2050 emissions peak

So, China says its emissions will start falling by 2050. Is this good news? The comments by Su Wei, director-general of the climate change department at the National Development and Reform Commission, are encouraging in one light  – China has been so strongly opposed to committing to any emissions reductions targets that the mention of  a time frame could be seen as an improvement. But on the down side, 2050 is very far off for the world’s biggest CO2 emitter. Scientists are calling for emissions to peak around 2020 so that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be stabilised within the safety limit by 2050, and even trajectories of China’s emissions trajectory would have it peaking earlier than that, such as this report from the UK’s Tyndall Centre:

The scenarios outlined in the Tyndall study not only included a big expansion of renewable energy and, in three scenarios, of carbon capture and storage, but also varying degrees of a shift away from an industrial focus and towards a knowledge-based economy.

However, the FT writes, Su indicated an openness to compromise:

“China will not continue growing emissions without limit or insist that all nations must have the same per-capita emissions. If we did that, this earth would be ruined.”

However what matters is how these signals translate into the Copenhagen negotiations in December. Charles McElwee writes that a carbon intensity goal is being talked about ‘for the end of the year’.  Although hard caps – in a suitable time frame, at least – are still off limits, Beijing has a goal of reducing energy intensity, per unit of GDP, between 2006 and 2010 (in which it is apparently lagging), but it is yet to set a target for reducing carbon intensity in addition to that. The end of the year would of course be too late for Copenhagen.

Related links:

2050?! (China Environmental Law, 17/08/09)
Bejing sets date for emissions cut (FT, 16/08/09)