Positive Environment News

FACTBOX - Comparison of US, China climate efforts

Date: 28-Jul-09
Country: US
Author: Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer

Combating global warming is one of several topics being discussed at high-level meetings this week between US and Chinese government officials.

Progress between the world's two largest emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would boost an international summit set for December in Copenhagen that aims to craft new global goals on controlling climate change.

Some in the United States argue Washington should not commit itself to specific reductions in industrial emissions, which could boost energy prices, until China does so as well. But an argument can be made that China already has taken more concrete steps than the United States.

Here is a rundown of climate change moves by both countries:


* China's latest five-year plan calls for a 20 percent cut in energy intensity by the end of 2010, from 2005 levels. Chinese authorities estimate this would cut the country's carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 1 billion tons. However, the effort has fallen behind schedule.

* Beijing also has set a goal for about 15 percent of the electricity it generates to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

* China's fuel economy standards for its rapidly growing passenger vehicle fleet are more stringent than those in Australia, Canada and the United States. Average fuel economy for new vehicles was projected at 36.7 mpg in 2008.

* Some energy-intensive products for export no longer qualify for special tax breaks in an attempt to encourage energy efficiency.

* At a recent summit in Italy, China joined rich and poor countries acknowledging that global temperature increases should be limited to 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that would force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

* But in a disappointment to environmentalists, China was among developing countries that would not commit to a goal of cutting world carbon emissions in half by 2050.

* Environmentalists also worry that China plans to significantly expand the number of coal-fired power plants that contribute to global warming.


* No national carbon-reduction goals have yet been set but the House of Representatives has narrowly passed legislation calling for industrial greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 17 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels, and 83 percent by 2050.

* Senate leaders say they are considering similar legislation. While a bill might be debated in October, the measure has not been introduced yet and a difficult fight is expected.

* If Congress fails to finish a bill, the Obama administration has indicated it will go ahead with regulations to control climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency, early next year, has the power to move ahead.

* Some states, such as California, have set their own goals for reducing emissions.

* An economic stimulus measure enacted in February included $30 billion for investments in renewable energy technology and improved energy transmission.

* With no agreement among policymakers over whether to expand non-polluting nuclear power, mostly because of waste storage problems and high construction costs, many fear that continued use of dirty coal will hobble climate change efforts until alternative methods can be developed.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

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