Sunday, February 28News For London

COP21: Can China change?


Woman wears a face mask, surrounded by pollution in Beijing, China. Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon.

After the COP21 agreement, China have been told they need to dramatically reduce their carbon emissions. The Chinese climate change envoy at the summit expressed disagreement with the deal. But as China accounts for 28% of global emissions according to IPCC, huge changes are now “legally required”.

An Energy Policy report from 2007 states that  “In the future the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions in China is expected to increase further, due to the projected lasting economic growth and increase in energy demand and household consumption.”

An export-led economy such as China has held for many years increases a demand for multiple factories producing harmful pollution. A shift could enable partial closures of production factories which would reduce smog in the cities and the countries emissions overall.

An infographic by the International Business Times shows that as of 2011, China is responsible for a high percentage of global manufactured goods. This is inclusive of 90.6% of all personal computers, 80% of air conditioners, 70.6% of mobile phones and 48.2% of coal in 2011.

With figures such as these being relevant just 4 years ago, the country has a long road ahead to shift from an export led economy.

Xie Zhenhua (Chinese climate envoy) stated at the summit that the pact is not perfect and needs improvement. “But it does not prevent us from marching forward in historic steps. The agreement is fair, just, comprehensive and balanced, with legally binding force”.

Zhenhua’s statement presents a much needed compliance from China and hope for change in global emissions in the future.

COP21 and Current global emissions

COP21, the United Nations conference on Climate change saw 195 countries coming to an agreement. Included in the list of countries in agreement were the United States of America and China, the two biggest producers of carbon dioxide in the world according to the Global Emissions Atlas.

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17 countries rated in terms of their metric tons of carbon dioxide production. Credit: Global Carbon Atlas. 

The global climate change summit saw world leaders come to an agreement to tackle the issue. Held in Paris, it was the first in history and was finalised after two weeks on 12th December. Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, welcomed the agreement at a time where pollution has reached hazardous levels in the country.

The summit also comes at a time where pollution levels in Chinese cities such as Beijing, have reached over 25 times the safe levels according to the Telegraph.

What has been agreed to?

The BBC’s website explains that the following terms have been agreed to:

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge.

According to the USA National Centres for Environmental Information, the current global temperature is around 14.5°C. Leaving the countries in accordance with COP21 needing to reduce global temperatures by 12.5°C to achieve targets.

Carbon dioxide, the most harmful emission caused by human activity is the biggest contributor to global warming. The IPCC states that it contributes to 65% of all greenhouse emissions whilst also stating that China are responsible for 28% globally.

China needs to pave the way for climate change in the future as the leaders of carbon emissions in the world. To keep with the COP21 agreement, much to the supposed disliking of the policies implemented, China will have to dramatically change.