China Admits It's the World's Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitter


Photo: Haldini, Flickr, CC BY-SA

So it's not exactly news: Scientists have known for years that China's greenhouse gas emissions have surpassed that of the United States. But it's telling that China, typically very guarded about pollution issues and climate impacts, has openly admitted as much. Here's what China's chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, told a news conference in Beijing, just days before he's set to travel to the next round of international talks on global warming:

"Now we stand at world number one in emissions volumes," Xie told a news conference in Beijing.

Rich countries should nevertheless lead with steep cuts in their emissions, said Xie, since over time they have contributed most to the build-up of greenhouse gases trapping more solar heat in the atmosphere, and they should give poorer countries room to grow their economies and emissions.

"China is taking steps in the hope that we can peak (in emissions) as early as possible," he said.

That's from a Reuters report in the Scientific American, and it demonstrates that China is keenly aware of its status as the current number one contributor to global climate change.

Xie (rightfully) emphasizes that developed nations like the US should bear more responsibility for climate action, and also argues that a fairer way to guide policy for carbon emissions is to consider per capita output as opposed to total output.

But such statements -- along with their massive investments in clean tech -- are also indicative of China's awareness of the problem. With China gradually coming to accept its role in affecting global climate change, I wonder: Will the US do the same?

More on the China and Global Carbon Emissions
China Will Cap Emissions Intensity: Your Move, U.S.
China's Emissions Should Peak by 2030: New Chinese Report
West "Responsible" For Third of China's CO2 Emissions

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