Everyone could get CO2 permits: China study

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Everyone on the planet could get identical greenhouse gas emission rights as part of a drive to halve emissions by 2050, according to a study by Chinese scientists on Monday.

The proposal, presented on the sidelines of a December 1-12 U.N. conference on fighting global warming, would force nations such as the United States which have used most fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution to buy emission rights from poor nations.

“Developed countries shall take the lead in reducing emissions,” said Su Wei, head of climate change at China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

The Carbon Budget Proposal suggested that emission allowances could be set at 2.33 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for each person on the planet in the period 1900 to 2050 as part of a goal of halving world emissions by 2050.

Most rich nations have already far exceeded their budgets and would have to buy emissions rights to keep on emitting until 2050. U.S. emissions now exceed 20 tonnes per capita.

“The accumulative historical emissions in the U.S. is about three times its total carbon budget,” according to the study, by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Other countries such as Britain or Germany are also overdrawn.

Poor nations, such as many African states where emissions are below one tonne per person, were far below their 1900-2050 quotas and would receive cash from the rich.

The 190-nation Poznan talks are seeking to work out a new treaty to fight climate change, meant to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 in a step to avert more floods, droughts and rising seas. But the talks are far from agreeing how to work out a fair share of the burden among major emitters.


China has recently overtaken the United States as top national emitter, many experts say. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama says the fight against global warming will need “real commitments” by China and India.

The calculations projected three scenarios under which China’s own emissions would keep on rising and peak at around 2025-2030 before declining. China has not officially set a peak year.

Monday’s research underlines that China’s per capita emissions are only about a quarter of those of the United States. China’s population is 1.3 billion against a U.S. population of 300 million.

“You might say this is in favor of China,” said Pan Jiahua, who led the study. “It’s not the case.

He said China’s own “carbon budget” would be roughly in balance at 2.33 tonnes per capita over the period 1900-2050.

Su said that the study, and others about transfer of environmental technologies to help developing nations, were not formal Chinese proposals.

“These are research papers,” Su told Reuters. “We hope that these will contribute to our discussions toward Copenhagen.”

The study also suggested that the per capita budget allowances could be adjusted for factors such as climate -- countries such as Russia, for instance, use more energy for heating in winter and so could emit slightly more.

Editing by Angus MacSwan