China No Longer a Developing Nation - Per Capita Carbon Emissions Higher Than France's


Beijing shopping mall, photo: John via flickr

James Kanter over at the New York Times point out a very important statistical update: According to an assessment of per capita carbon emissions by the Netherlands Environmental Agency, China now emits on a per person basis more than France. While emissions in France in 2009 were 6 tons, those in China were 6.1 tons--up from 2.2 tons in 1990. Which really means that China can no longer claim to be a developing nation.I realize that glosses over things a bit, but not too thickly.


Glass factory in Guangdong, photo: Lyle Vincent via flickr
China Has Radically Reduced Poverty, Manufacturing For The World
Since it's essentially the world's factory, about one-third of China's emissions are the direct result of making goods for consumption overseas. If France manufactured more of its consumer goods domestically, its emissions would likely by higher--though since most of its electricity comes from nuclear energy, it's not a direct comparison, since China is largely coal-powered.

Also because of all that manufacturing, those higher emissions in China don't directly represent the lifestyle choices of the average Chinese resident, much in the same way that statistically per capita emissions in US states with high levels of oil refining and chemical production are skewed higher than just personal lifestyle choices would create.

That said though, a quick glance at World Bank stats shows that the poverty rate in China has dropped from 65% in 1981, to 16% in 2001, to just 4% today. Statistically that's actually lower than in France by about 2%.

Keep in mind that what counts as poverty in France probably counts as luxury to many of China's poor--an important point in terms of human development--but it's all still quite telling.


photo: Arne Böll
China Can't Justify Not Committing to Stronger Emission Reductions
What it comes down to and these latest stats cement, is that in international negotiations, particularly when it comes to climate change and committing to carbon emission reductions, China can no longer call itself a developing nation and fall back on that stance to justify not committing to more stringent measures. It more rightly stands beside France and other EU nations with relatively low per capita emissions (think Sweden, Switzerland) than it does with its neighbors in Southeast and South Asia, still less so with virtually any nation in Africa.

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More on Carbon Emissions:
Will Transparency Curb Carbon Emissions if Cap and Trade Fails?
US Carbon Emissions Down 9% Over Last Two Years
West 'Responsible' for Third of China's CO2 Emissions

Tags: Carbon Emissions | China | Developing Nations | Global Climate Change | Poverty