photo: Saad Akhtar/CC BY
China became the largest national carbon emitter in 2007, overtaking the US. Last summer China also became the world's largest consumer of energy. Currently its per capita carbon footprint (6.8 tons) is roughly similar to that of Italy and greater than those of France--meaning that on an average basis, acknowledging significant differences based on income, people in China consume resources and use energy to a similar degree as a low-emitting developed nation.
Now, starkly, a new report from the European Commission Joint Research Centre projects, based on current emission trends, that China's per capita emissions could overtake or match those of the United States by 2017--which, incorporating recent declines, stand at about 16.9 tons per person.China No Longer a Developing Nation
Yale e360 notes, "Some conservationists now contend that, based on its CO2 emissions, China should be treated as a developed nation in future climate change talks."
That's a reasonable, if without a doubt politically unpalatable, position. Something which I noted last July, commenting on a report that China's carbon emissions were at 6.1 tons per person and even more applicable today:
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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A New Take on the World's Carbon Footprint (Graphic)
West "Responsible" For Third of China's CO2 Emissions