13. 06. 2007

China: kids and carbon

I wouldn’t want anyone to think this blog is going to be population-obsessed, but I just have to record “a major, major step forward” for bloggers seeking to influence governmental negotiating positions.

Just four weeks ago, I suggested that the Chinese government should face down George Bush’s endless complaints about China doing nothing on climate change by referring to all the billions of tonnes of CO2 not emitted into the atmosphere because of China’s one-child family policy. Four weeks on, there’s Ma Kai, head of China’s State Economic Planning Agency doing exactly that on the margins of the G8 Plus 5 Summit in Heiligendamm last week:

“Without China’s strict family planning policies, the country’s population would have increased by 138 million since 1979, resulting in an extra 330 billion tonnes in emissions.”

The exceptionally sharp-eyed amongst you will observe that my diplomatic triumph is marred by a bit of a cock-up in my calculations. I initially quoted 400 million “births averted” as a consequence of China’s one-child family policy, on the basis of previous information picked up on a visit to China – a rather large discrepancy which I’ll need to look in to! But I rather assume that Mr Kai should know.

Unfortunately, the Chinese delegation at Heiligendamm had little else to offer by way of encouraging news on climate change. The International Energy Agency forecast earlier this year that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest emitter of CO2 by the end of 2007 – emitting more than 6 billion tonnes in comparison to America’s 5.9 billion tonnes.

Simply parroting its mantra of “growth first, climate change second” will, from that point on, sound more and more ludicrous.

Add your comment

Comments

13. 06. 2007
Pete

the question we need to understand is WHY will china become the world's biggest emitter of CO2?

sure they've got more than their fair share of people, but per capita their carbon footprint is less than a third of the average person in the UK ... no doubt they've been inspired by developed world lifestyles though ... so they're bound to be on the rise

the answer is largely because we in the developed world export all our manufacturing to china ... we then import the goods back to us, then, when we're done with the goods, export the plastic waste (if it doesn't end up in a land-fill) back to China, then import it back here as reconstituted goods ... and so on

e.g. go and buy a bottle of 100% natural glass cleaner from M&S, containing nothing but water and vinegar ... MADE IN CHINA ... M&S might have a 'Plan A' because there is no Plan B, but it's more how they get the goods from A to B they should be worrying about

and how does this square with TESCO? terry leahy says he wants every customer to be a green customer ... that must mean washing their clothes MADE IN CHINA at 30 degrees

and good old WalMart/ASDA ... it's been amazing watching them roll out the greenwash lately ... the thing people really need to watch is http://www.walmartmovie.com ... the you'll see how they go about business in china

it's a 'race to the bottom' i.e. to produce more for less, from less

what a way to waste the ever dwindling resources of this one planet

but have no fear ... no doubt branson is already thinking about coming to the rescue by mining the moon for more natural resources via virgin galactic ;o)

14. 06. 2007
Peter Shield

Actually Jonathan I think the Chinese brought quite a lot to the table compared to what we have seen in the past. The first major policy statement on China’s approach to the environment and development for a start. Yes, before you start bopping up and down in your chair and reach for the keyboard, most of the project were actually already started but the fact that they are finally placing the environment along development and not counter posing the two is a major step in the right direction.

Really however it centres around the question- does a country that is developing have the right to increase its emissions in the process of that development? China produces a quarter of the emissions per capita (3.2 tonnes) than the UK, and a sixth of the US (Source United Nations Statistics on 2003 figures).

OK point taken there is a lot more capita in China(1321604002 at 19.49 on the 13th June according to the MNSU.edu calculator) than in say the worse offender US Virgin Islands (110404) at an amazing 121.3 tonnes.

The West’s wealth is historically based on cheap and polluting energy. Can we morally demand that a developing country fore goes that development to save a planet we messed up?
I agree there is a planetary imperative that could arguably over-ride all else, but I suspect developing governments might not agree.

So I think we should start looking at a different way to look at carbon emissions by country. What I mean is that we need to look at both the emissions generated by a country and by what that country imports. At the moment we are in effect exporting carbon emissions to developing countries by buying cheap high energy products manufactured from them in phenomenal quantities.

Ironically China already has a huge PV panel manufacturing industry- its just exporting the products to Europe and the US and not installing them at home.

Secondly we need to follow the ideas of Oxfam and stick to, and extend, the aid promised at Gleneagles G8 to invest heavily in climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

Please don’t confuse what I am saying with a defence of the Chinese Government or energy policy for that matter- more a realistic analyses of what is possible with the present regime.

19. 06. 2007
Pete

CHINA 'TAKES OVER' US IN CO2 EMISSIONS - GREENPEACE RESPONSE

Reacting to a study released today claiming China emitted more
carbon-dioxide than the United States in 2006, Greenpeace UK director John Sauven said:

"Responsibility for China's soaring emissions lies not just in Beijing but also in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo. All we've done is export a great slice of the west's carbon footprint to China, and today we see the result. Let us not forget that the average Chinese emits just 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, whereas Britons emit nearly 10 tonnes and North Americans 20 tonnes."

He continued:

"The West moved its manufacturing base to China knowing it was vastly more polluting than Japan, Europe or the US. No environmental conditions were attached to this move, in fact the only thing manufacturers were interested in was the price of labour. This trend kept the price of our products down but at the cost of soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Long term this policy has been a climate disaster"

"We should export clean energy technology to China to increase low carbon and renewable energy take-up so the products we import have a smaller carbon footprint."

According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) China's 2006 carbon dioxide emissions surpassed those of the USA by eight percent. If accurate, it would be the first time China's emissions have surpassed those of America.

The MNP said the figures were based on its own preliminary estimates derived from recent energy and cement production data.

According to the MNP figures, China's emissions increased by nine percent in 2006 compared to its 2005 output. In the United States emissions rose 1.4 percent from 2005 to 2006.

ENDS

For more call Greenpeace on 0207 865 8255 or 07801 212967

13. 07. 2007
Phil

Is China's one child policy a classic example of carbon capture and storage? Or more to the point a carbon offset - or even genocide?

18. 06. 2007
Pete

Green capitalist wants to profit from global conflict

Entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz plans to channel arms cash into saving the environment. The motive? Money, of course, writes Richard Wachman

Sunday June 17, 2007
The Observer

Even for the financially literate, the connection between foreign exchange markets and climate change is not immediately obvious.

But Vincent Tchenguiz, the Iraqi-born entrepreneur and elder brother of Robert, the activist investor who has amassed a stake in Sainsbury, says the link is crucial in understanding how the West is making China one of the 'dirtiest' powers on earth.

'The Chinese authorities decide the value of the yuan against the US currency, not the market. The yuan is pegged artificially low against the dollar, enabling America to suck in cheap Chinese goods. The result? Beijing's foreign cash reserves have rocketed - allowing China to pay for more factories [many of which spew highly toxic emissions into the environment] to service foreign and indigenous consumers.'

Other currencies, such as sterling and the euro, also trade at an inflated value against the Chinese currency. According to Tchenguiz, 50, the consequences are far-reaching: the West's trade deficit with China is an eye-watering £500bn, but equally important, 'we have bankrolled China's rapid industrialisation, a process that often pays scant regard to the environment'.
But isn't the United States the world's biggest polluter? Tchenguiz retorts that China will soon overtake America - something that we have brought about ourselves. 'You could argue that [Alan] Greenspan [former head of the US Federal Reserve] kick-started China's rise to power by cutting interest rates whenever the US economy ran into trouble. The result was a borrowing binge that fuelled the consumer boom.'

Tchenguiz pauses for a moment. Then he says: 'China was nowhere 10 years ago.'

Why is Tchenguiz so wrapped up with the environment and the forex markets? The answer is money. On the one hand, he is a big foreign exchange trader involved in transactions worth about $200bn annually. Second, he is moving into the environmental business in a big way. About 50 per cent of his private UK company, Consensus, linked to Tchenguiz family trusts registered in Guernsey, is made up of investments in green technologies or research affiliates. 'It's a large part of what I do; it takes up 70 per cent of my time,' he says.

Tchenguiz isn't on a crusade. 'People would hammer me if I said that. For me, the motivator is money. It's a business proposition.'

He opens a file on the table in his office to illustrate his latest project which he describes as 'massive'. In a nutshell, the idea is that Tchenguiz will make himself indispensable to defence and aerospace companies, which are compelled to invest in countries where they win arms deals.

Under so-called 'offset arrangements', arms companies have to make 'flow-back' investments that range in value from 10 per cent to 100 per cent of the purchase price of the transaction. Many developing countries prefer foreign companies to invest in schemes that create jobs or tackle environmental problems, rather than plough money back into their own arms industries.

So where does Tchenguiz come in? There are a number of possibilities for someone with his business acumen.

The arms companies don't have to invest all the money themselves - they can bring in co-investors. You've got it: co-investors such as Tchenguiz.

He points out that he is already in a strong position to grab green business as he has invested more than $500m through stakes in 1,000 companies involved in technology and climate change solutions. He has a 6 per cent holding in Imperial Innovations, the research and development arm of Imperial College. He is talking to other universities interested in using him as a conduit for their own climate change technologies.

He reckons he can make a lot of money from a sector that he believes will be one of the fastest growing within just a few years. If he can become a leading 'green' contractor for the arms companies, he will be on to something very big indeed.

Tchenguiz believes that global warming will cause a geopolitical earthquake: 'Expect huge migrations of people looking for food and shelter as they flee areas that become uninhabitable because of crop failure or flooding,' he says. 'You are already seeing this happen in places such as Bangladesh. That will force western governments to increase their military spending to keep people out.'

And when people are penned into places where despair sets in, something ugly takes place. 'It's called chaos, and where there is chaos, there is lawlessness - both lead to international terrorism.'

Tchenguiz gets into his stride: 'Imagine 20 Afghanistans, then you'll have an idea of what I am talking about.'

A self-confessed workaholic, Tchenguiz is already a wealthy man, having made millions from the Rotch property empire that he built up with his brother, Robert, after they left Iran for Britain in 1979 following the overthrow of the Shah. Their family had settled there in the 1940s after fleeing Iraq.

He says he is a different character to his sibling, who works across the street in similarly plush premises near London's Hyde Park. Robert has been in the news lately after building stakes in companies such as Sainsbury and pubs group Mitchells and Butlers, where he is pushing for corporate change.

'Robert was always the more extrovert one, although now that he is married with a family, things have changed a bit. I am still single, so I can live it up,' Tchenguiz laughs.

Returning to the subject of the currency markets, one can't help wondering what Tchenguiz has been punting on. The answer will surprise some: he is betting on a big dollar bounce back.

'They [the West] will have to do something about China. Look at the newspapers - both the US and Europe are talking about protectionist sanctions, measures that will help address these huge trade imbalances.'

If sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, persuade the Chinese to revalue the yuan, the dollar should rise. And Tchenguiz will make a packet.

18. 02. 2012
Eduardo

All well and good, but not elctaxy a help to the skeptical case. The Chinese, even the educated ones, often don't believe the U.S. really put men on the moon.

12. 04. 2014
Ed Conduit

Agreed, Jonathon. We should congratulate Ma Kai and the PR China on its one-child policy. They are up against an internal lobby to abandon its sustainable population approach. (Wang Feng, Yong Cai, Baochang Gu, 2013). There is an unbreakable link between each birth, oil consumption equivalent to a tank of petrol every 5 days, and emissions. One birth per woman across the planet might slow the process.

Add a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

We appreciate your comments.