If one is to believe the latest report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), China is still a long way from kicking its coal addiction. In fact, China’s energy-related CO2 emissions will increase rapidly to 11.4 billion tonnes in 2020, 13.9 billion tonnes in 2030 and 16.2 billion tonnes in 2050, and will not peak before 2050.
Source: UNDP (2010) – Towards a Low Carbon Economy and Society
So will there actually be such a thing as a low carbon Chna in a not-too-distant future? The country still has a relatively low level of science and technology know-how in several key areas critical to a low carbon economy, along with limited capacities for technology development. The investments required for shifting to a low carbon economy would also carry important opportunity costs.
But there might be some light at the end of the coal mine: the government has indicated its willingness to become more energy-efficient. Several technologies exist or are being developed to tackle the growing demands of the world’s factory. Last but not least, a low carbon China could also start with low carbon consumers all across the world.