December 8, 2009 / 10:49 AM / in 8 years

China CO2 targets not enough to avert climate risks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must do much more if it is to halve per capita greenhouse emissions by 2050 and thereby avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, but it cannot go it alone, a report released in Beijing said on Tuesday.

<p>A resident stands near a power plant in Wuhan, Hubei province, December 8, 2009. The largest-ever climate talks formally opened on Monday in Denmark aiming to agree the outlines of global deal to stave off dangerous climate change, such as rising seas and more intense storms. REUTERS/China Daily</p>

China needs to build on its current CO2 mitigation efforts and ensure the rise in global temperatures by 2050 is limited to just 2 degrees Celsius, a team of economists said in a report titled “Going Clean: The Economics of China’s Low-Carbon Development.”

But the current system has proved to be inadequate and new global financial mechanisms need to be created to bring funding and clean technology to China and the rest of the developing world, said Fan Gang, adviser to China’s central bank and one of the senior authors of the report.

“The funding from developed to developing countries in the existing carbon trading mechanisms has not been enough and we can’t rely on the market to provide what are public goods,” he told reporters.

Negotiators from 192 countries have gathered in the Danish capital Copenhagen to try to thrash out a new accord to combat manmade global warming, and “scaling up” current efforts is high on the agenda.

Among the targets of reform is the Clean Development Mechanism, which has allowed developed countries to meet carbon emission targets by investing in projects in poorer countries, which are then granted tradable carbon credits.

But the CDM has been far too limited in scope, providing just a fraction of the $40 billion a year developing countries need to meet global climate goals, Fan said.

The report recommends forming two-way pacts called “Inter-Country Joint Mitigation Plans” that can be enforced with or without the CDM, or even any binding deal at Copenhagen.

Such a mechanism will allow developing countries to devise their own programs in exchange for technology and funding from a rich partner nation or group of nations.

“I think that is a very interesting way of fast tracking and upscaling technology transfer and recognizing that the CDM is not up to the task,” said Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the report’s authors.

PEAKING EARLY

While the report welcomed China’s own mitigation plans, it said they were far from enough to restrict temperature rises to just two degrees Celsius by 2050.

At the end of last month, China -- now regarded as the world’s biggest producer of manmade CO2 -- committed itself to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide it produces per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent before 2020, compared to 2005 levels. [nPEK421]

But even if the target is met, emissions are still unlikely to peak until well beyond 2030, making it almost impossible to stay within the two-degree “budget,” said Rockstrom.

Even if China peaks in 2020, it will subsequently have to cut emissions by 11 percent a year to stay on the “two-degree curve,” but if the peak is delayed until 2030, the annual cut needs to rise to 30 percent, which is “not plausible at all,” he said.

China’s emissions per person need to fall from the current annual figure of 4.5 tonnes to 2 tonnes by 2050, and then to half a tonne by 2100, he added.

Fan said China needed to consider introducing a carbon tax as well as its own cap-and-trade system as soon as possible, but the onus was still on industrialized nations to ensure that the funding is available to help China switch to a low-carbon trajectory as soon as possible.

“The problem is the developed world is not yet ready to make a commitment to invest,” he said.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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