Monday, September 28, 2009

The bad news and the good news

President Hu Jintao’s speech to the UN this week offered standard fair in on one hand when he pledged to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020”. That is 15% of a moving target as China’s overall energy consumption is growing at a massive rate. On the otherhand he also said this: “We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions — (inaudible) — GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level” (according to the transcript of his speech provided by the Federal News Service). This is notable because for the first time, we have a declaration of a FIXED target and one that involves a reduction from current and planned levels of output even if the target is the 2005 level itself – which was 5.3 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2. That said, stabilizing at 450 ppm of CO2 is commonly assumed to require a worldwide cut from current levels of 28 gigatons to 18 gigatons. Assuming a world population stabilizing at 9 billion people with China at 1.5 billion, the per capita allocation for China would be 3 gigatons. That is below 5.3 gigatons by a really “notable margin”! There is also the worrisome use of the word ‘endeavor’ in his statement.

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