A report released ahead of UN climate summit on Sept 23, which shows China’s per capita carbon emissions have surpassed those of the European Union, does not tell the whole story, an expert said.
“China and the EU cannot be compared in such a simple way, given their different stages of development and economic situations,” said Zou Ji, a professor at the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation.
According to the Global Carbon Project report, China’s carbon dioxide emissions of 7.2 metric tons per capita for the first time surpassed the EU’s 6.8 tons in 2013.
However, the EU, since the industrial revolution, has produced more cumulative emissions per capita than China, Zou said.
About 70 percent of cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution were emitted from developed countries, which are believed to be the reason behind today’s global climate change, according to the latest assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
While the EU’s energy mix is cleaner and less reliant on fossil fuels, its emissions have already peaked, Zou said, and its level of emissions is still only slightly lower per person than a country like China that is undergoing the process of industrialization and urbanization. This indicates that there is room for the EU to cut emissions in consumption activities, especially in sectors such as construction and transportation, he said.
Meanwhile, the Global Carbon Project report said the UK’s emissions were down 2.6 percent, but over the longer term it “exports” a third of its emissions by consuming goods and services which are produced elsewhere.
Similarly, the EU, like the UK, exports around a third of its emissions to places such as China, it said.
It has been estimated that one-third to one-fourth of China’s carbon emissions come from producing goods for trade, Zou said.
Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, who is in New York to attend the UN Climate Summit on Sept 23, said on Sept 22 that Beijing will offer $6 million to support UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in promoting cooperation on climate change among developing countries.