30 November 2009
China's CO2 Cuts
As governments ready themselves for next week’s Climate Change summit in Copenhagen, China announced that it would cut its CO2 emissions for each unit of GDP by up to 45% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. That is significant. The Chinese government always takes a long time to come to a position on policy, but once a decision is taken implementation follows swiftly.
Not a moment too soon for China’s gasping and spluttering population who have lived in one of the most polluted parts of the planet since its largely coal-based industrialization took off. All 10 of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are now in China, according to a recent survey published in Forbes Magazine. Air pollution accounts for almost 0.7 million premature deaths in China each year, according to the World Health Organization.
China is the world’s largest consumer of coal. It is third in the world in term of coal reserves, behind the United States and Russia. As coal fired power plants produce cheaper electricity in terms of dollars and cents than the greener alternatives, they are not going away anytime soon.
Construction work on China’s first clean coal plant, employing carbon capture and storage, started this summer. Reportedly, the plant will cost about $1billion. Four CCS plants are being discussed for Britain and an experimental plant, using an oxyfuel boiler, started operation in Germany last year. The International Energy Agency estimates that 100 CCS plants will be needed by 2020, up to 850 plants by 2030 and 3,400 plants by 2050. CCS technology is a priority for China and India who have made it clear they are not going to sacrifice their economic development for a greener planet. The good news is they are willing to collaborate with the rich countries on bringing their CO2 emissions down.
Just where the money will come from for CCS and the other measures needed for the survival of the species will be hotly debated at Copenhagen. Meantime, we can be certain that coal fired power plants, like this one in Datong, China, will be around for a very long time.