China's Per Capita Carbon Emissions Solidly Reach Developed Nation Levels

Ian Holton/CC BY 2.0

I've waxed on about how China really can't consider itself a developing nation for the purpose of international climate negotiations, due to its per capita carbon emissions being similar to those of low-emitting European countries, so I'll keep this one brief.

In short, China's per capita emissions are now even higher. Nearly equalling those of the EU as a whole.

The latest report from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research shows in 2011 China's per capita emissions increased 9%, rising to 7.2 metric tons per person.

Compare that to those across the European Union for the same year, where they fell 3% to 7.5 metric tons per person. Even with recession still solidly in place, US emissions are 17.3 metric tons per person. Across the major industrialized nations of the world per capita emissions range from 6-19 metric tons.

In other words, China less and less has a logical leg to stand on in continuing to insist it is in a different class of nation, one where mandatory emissions cuts are not required, than the world's rich nations and historical sources of greenhouse gases.

Obligatory: Yes, there's a great rift in China's emissions due to income inequality, but frankly, at least in the context of international negotiations that really can no longer matter. Also obligatory: Yes, a good portion of China's national emissions (which then get divided up by population to get an inflated per capita figure) are based on manufacturing goods for export, but this is a national and international choice. Similar statistical skewing goes on in other places as well.

I know forcing this matter in international negotiations is likely to put a meaningful treaty even farther off, but doing otherwise is to perpetuate a deep fallacy.

Tags: Carbon Emissions | China | Global Climate Change

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