The Chinese government has warned of the difficulty of curbing growing greenhouse gas emissions in the foreseeable future.
Beijing has said it wants to combat climate change yet ensure China’s economic take-off is unimpeded, and a recent government white paper on climate change reflects the uneasy fit between those imperatives.
China faces shrinking crops, worsening droughts in some regions, worsening floods in others, and melting glaciers as average global temperatures rise, the report warns.
But it says the country will nonetheless increase emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels, as it seeks to leap into prosperity and lift tens of millions out of poverty.
“China will strive for rational growth of energy demand,” it states. “However, its coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of greenhouse gases rather difficult.”
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap solar radiation, threatening to heat the atmosphere to levels that scientists warn could unleash disastrous disruption.
This resulting damage will “cause huge losses to the national economy”, the paper states.
China points out that per capita emissions of its 1.3 billion people are much lower than in rich countries and says the developed countries bear overwhelming responsibility for the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases.
But China’s appetite for coal is responsible for much of the recent growth in global carbon dioxide emissions.
China is already the world’s biggest consumer of coal. Demand is growing so fast that its miners have to produce an extra 200 million tonnes a year to keep up, equal to the whole coal mining industry of major producer Indonesia.