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Congressional Research Service, "China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Policies," Sept. 10, 2008

A background report of China's greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation policies.
September 10, 2008

For other articles and documents on green energy, click here.


China’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and policies are frequently invoked in Congressional debates over appropriate climate change policy. This background report describes Chinese GHG emissions and some of its mitigation efforts. It touches briefly on China’s international cooperation. China and the United States are the leading emitters of GHGs, together responsible for about 35% of global emissions. A lack of official and reliable data makes any ranking of country emissions difficult to verify for now. China has released one GHG inventory, for the year 1994. Chinese CO2 emissions are high due to the country’s large population, strong capital investment and urbanization, and heavy reliance on coal, but are constrained by low incomes. Current forecasts are speculative but foresee Chinese emissions to grow rapidly with its economy.

In June 2007, China released its National Climate Change Program, a plan to address climate change. The Program outlines activities both to mitigate GHG emissions and to adapt to the consequences of potential climate change. Within the Program, perhaps most challenging is China’s goal to lower energy intensity 20% by 2010. The country fell short of its annual milestones, set in energy policies, in both 2006 and 2007; in July 2008, Premier Wen Jiabao and the State Council warned that meeting its energy intensity and emission reduction goals “remained an arduous task.” Related goals include more than doubling renewable energy use by 2020, expansion of nuclear power, closure of inefficient industrial facilities, tightened efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and forest coverage expanded to 20%. The Chinese, and some international observers, claim that China has been more proactive on climate change than some developed countries, though others are cautious of China’s ability to achieve its goals. Meanwhile, Chinese business opportunities in clean and low carbon energy are expanding rapidly.

Chinese negotiators adhere to the principle of “common but differentiated” responsibilities, agreed in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They argue that emissions per person in China are low and that raising incomes must be their highest priority, and that industrialized countries bear primary responsibility for the historical buildup of GHGs in the atmosphere and should thus lead in mitigating emissions domestically. Industrialized countries also, they say, should assist developing countries to mitigate emissions and adapt to coming change.

Debate on potential climate change legislation in the United States has been influenced by China’s surging GHG emissions, and uncertainty over how and when China might alter that trend. There is concern that strong domestic action taken without Chinese reciprocity would unfairly advantage China in global trade, and fail to slow significantly the growth of atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. The governments of both China and the United States have indicated some closure of their gap on future actions to address climate change. Some observers believe that
the next Administration and the 111th Congress will seek more active measures.

The full report can be found here.

Click here for a listing of reports released by the Congressional Research Service.


Other articles and documents on green energy:

Green Energy Programs in China and the U.S. | US-China Study on CO2 Storage | China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Strategy for Clean Air and Energy Cooperation between EPA and SEPA | U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership | U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan | U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center | Politics and energy policy in post-Mao China | US-China Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment | To Change the Mode of Development and Speed up the Restructuring of Energy Industry | Country Analysis Briefs: Taiwan | Country Analysis Briefs: ChinaU.S.-China Energy Policy: Toward Closer International Partnerships | US Treasury Secretary Paulson on Energy and the Environment | China’s Energy Conditions and Policies | Sustainable Development in Asia: Coal, Oil, and Renewable Energy in China | 11th Five Year Plan on Energy Development | Engaging Developing Countries, House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing | Carolyn Cartier | Richard Louis Edmonds | David Zweig |