Having overtaken the US as the world’s biggest CO2 emitter in 2006, last year China also became the world’s leading investor in renewables. Much of the future of climate change depends on the relative gradients of these two growth patterns: if renewables investments ramp up fast enough and carbon-neutral technologies become viable on a mass scale, there is a good chance of flattening and eventually reversing the upwards curb of China’s greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the scale of that challenge is immense. Even if Beijing succeeds in meeting its Copenhagen target to reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent from 2005 to 2020, carbon usage is still going to be dragged up by economic growth that is currently running at 11.9 per cent a year.
More importantly, as US president Barack Obama acknowledged in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this week, “we can’t, we can’t allow China to wait” before taking action: