China announces its global-warming response

A man rides past cooling towers at a coal-fired power station on the outskirts of Beijing.

Text of Story

KAI RYSSDAL: A funny thing happened on the way to a market meltdown today. Nothing at all. Wall Street — and investors almost everywhere else — ignored news from China that the Shanghai Composite Index tanked 8.3 percent overnight.

It's a rare instance of China being on the economic fringes. Chinese President Hu Jintao will be a special guest at the G-8 summit starting Wednesday in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wants to spend some time discussing climate change. And so President Hu will probably face some tough questions about China's action plan for global warming that was released today.

From Shanghai, Marketplace's Scott Tong reports.


SCOTT TONG: Emerging economies like China need to be given enough space to grow. That's how Chinese economic official Ma Kai put it in Beijing today.

Half the people here live on $2 a day or less. Which is why Ma says China and nations like it should be excused from tight controls on carbon emissions.

MA KAI (voice of interpreter): Their overriding priority at the moment is still economic development and poverty eradication.

Beijing's climate plan rests on energy efficiency. Each year, the voluntary goal is to burn 4 percent less energy per unit of growth. Think less coal per widget.

Paul Harris of Hong Kong's Lingnan University says that'll slow the growth in emissions. But:

PAUL HARRIS: This will do nothing to delay China overtaking the United States to be the number one national source of greenhouse pollution.

Beijing and Washington will both be on the spot at the G-8 climate talks.And Harris says at times like this, China adopts a familiar strategy.

Again, Ma Kai:

KAI: Developed countries must shoulder the obligation to provide financial support to developing countries as they fight climate change.

He says wealthy countries spewed 77 percent of the world's greenhouse gases the last five decades.

Class warfare? Perhaps. But in the end, Paul Harris says China and the developing world have more at stake here.

HARRIS: The climate changes that are affecting them and will do in the future will be much more difficult to cope with, simply because they are poor.

If and when the droughts and the famines come, he says China will have fewer resources to cope.

In Shanghai, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...