China: Rich Nations Wrong to Criticize its CO2 Emissions While Buying its Products

It is hypocritical for developed countries to criticize China’s greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously buying products from its booming manufacturing sector, Beijing said Thursday, defending its environmental record after a report said it had become the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter.

While China was 2 percent below the United States in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said Tuesday. China overtook the U.S. by about 7.5 percent in 2006, the agency said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called China the “world’s factory” and said criticism of its increased emissions was unfair. “The developed countries move a lot of manufacturing industry into China. A lot of the things you wear, you use, you eat are produced in China,” he said at a regular news briefing. “On the one hand you shall increase the production in China, on the other hand you criticize China on the emission reduction issue.”

Qin also repeated an argument Chinese officials have made in the past, that while total emissions are going up, they are still less than one quarter of those of the United States on a per capita basis.

China, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, spews about 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms) of carbon dioxide per person, while in the United States it is nearly 42,500 pounds (19,280 kilograms) per person. “From an objective perspective you can see that the emission of China is large but China is a large population. The per capita emission is low,” Qin said.

Academics and experts from the United Nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration backed the report released Tuesday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which is independent but paid for by the Dutch government to advise it on environmental policy.

China relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs and makes 44 percent of the world’s cement. In comparison, the U.S. gets half its electricity from coal.

Qin would not confirm that China had overtaken the U.S. in carbon dioxide emissions, saying he was not sure how the numbers in the latest report were calculated, but stressed that China is taking a “positive and earnest” attitude to combat greenhouse gas emissions.
China signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted in industrialized countries. But because China is considered a developing country it is exempt from emission reductions – a situation often cited by the U.S. and Australian governments for not accepting the treaty.

Qin said China’s efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions include energy conservation measures, increasing forest coverage and family planning policies that have slowed population growth.

This month, China unveiled its first national program to combat global warming with promises to rein in greenhouse gas production. While it offered few new concrete targets for greenhouse gas emissions, it outlined steps the country would take to meet a previously announced goal of improving energy efficiency in 2010 by 20 percent over 2005’s level.

Beijing has also indicated an unwillingness to enforce mandatory emissions caps.
Economic development is a priority for China, and the country needs industry “for subsistence and survival,” Qin said.