Monday, March 05, 2007

Asia wakes up to climate change.

The financial times has an interesting article on asian, or specifically Indian and Chinese attitudes to climate change. It seems that these emerging economic giants are starting to wake up to the need for action.

Quick clarification before the article. The equity of climate change can be thought of in three ways: who has the historical responsibility, the current emissions liability and finally, who can afford to pay? All of these are related to per capita not absolute levels, we are talking ethics, a personal matter. All of these would point to Europe and N.America having the responsibility for acting, or more accurately--in a capitalist society--for funding the mitigation and adaptation.

This is all very nice, and infact very important, as only on this basis will we achive a settlement. What this does not in any way obviate however, is the absolute essential role that a global cap on emissions can play in driving mitigation technologies, practices and behaviour. Every nation will have to accept a carbon cap. Without global 'buy in' to a carbon constrained economy this planet that we all inhabit will be delt a crippling if not deadly blow.

The necessary being said, the FT states that:

"Beijing's eerily mild winter has provoked anxious media coverage in the Chinese capital. In India, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers that feed the country's great river systems is alarming policymakers. The world's two fastest-growing large economies are growing increasingly conscious of the global warming in which their rapid development is playing a part."

Points are clearly made about US intransigence and both Indian and Chinese emissions in per capita terms. Both legitimate claims to compensation for the costs of mitigation but not for inaction.

One point that is perhaps not as commonly mentioned as this argument is the actual Chinese plans with regards emissions. Efficiency of the Chinese economy has been increasing steadily up until 2000 at which point that ohh so simple target of emissions intensity (that the US has targets for I believe) actually started to increase. That even this, often assured, trend is reversing, is deeply disturbing.

"After a quarter-century of improvements, China's surge of investment in heavy industry and power capacity since 2000 has seen energy efficiency levels retreat and pollution measurements soar. China added power capacity last year equal to the entire grids of the UK and Thailand combined, 90 per cent of it coal-fired, to feed its growing stack of steel, aluminium and cement plants and the like."

Despite these problems, the scale of which is unprecedented, attitudes are changing and solutions are being sought and implemented. The questions, as always is one of scale, until there is a price on carbon we will have large scale efficiency projects and renewable energy schemes, but large scale is not the same as economy wide, and 8-10% annual gdp growth for each of the two 'billion plus' nations takes a huge quantity of energy.

Part of the motivation for coming together internationally may be more local concerns:

"Both China and India suffer from acute air and water pollution. In 83 Indian cities for which air quality monitoring data are available, more than 84 per cent of the population was in 2004 forced to inhale poor, bad or dangerous air. Only 3 per cent had access to air that was rated good. China is home to 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities, with dirty air causing the premature deaths of 400,000 people a year. About 340m people, about one-quarter of the population, do not have access to clean water."

Relevant Web Resources:
1)These tag's have information on india, china and asia as a whole.
2)There are links at the right hand side of the page from Indian and Chinese climate and energy websites.

Relevant Reports:
1) Asian perspectives on post-2012 frameworks (IGES)
2) Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change (ISET/WII)

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Climate Change Action

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