Thursday, 8 January 2009

Electricity Generation Decreases in China

Last year, I mentioned on this blog that China had finally passed the United States as the largest greenhouse-gas emitting nation. Among the largest emissions sources in China are coal-fired power stations and construction (the joke is that the construction crane is the national bird).

Now the economic downturn is acting as a brake on China's growth. According to the New York Times, Chinese power generation has declined for the first time since 2002.

Researchers estimate this drop in electrical production will result in 1.9 and 2.6 billion tonnes fewer CO2 emission between 2008 and 2012 than under a "business as usual" scenario.

While this is good news for the climate, we shouldn't necessarily celebrate. You can reduce emissions from electricity generation by using fewer electricity-consuming services (where fewer services means more suffering). You can also reduce emissions from electricity generation by using electricity more efficiently (without the need to suffer). Finally, you can reduce emissions from electricity generation by using lower-carbon power sources like wind and solar.

Unfortunately, China's carbon footprint is shrinking due to more suffering -factories are closing and people are losing their jobs. We could see similar reductions through greater investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency - indeed, China hosts more carbon offset projects than any other country.

There are a host of ways to reach a low-carbon future. It would be a shame if it were associated only with job loss and economic hardship.

(Carbon Clear homepage)