Thursday 24 September 2009

Chinese Checkers: Behind the Climate-Change Diplomacy

The Chinese have played an interesting hand on climate change this week, disappointing some but enthusing others. And, aside from a rather large forestation plan, at no incremental cost to themselves.

China was always going to clean up its emissions - which is not the same as CO2 reduction - because they are poisoning their own people and. while they are willing to accept casualties in the battle for growth (see their stats on mining deaths) they'd rather not.

And their 'carbon intensity' - the measure by which they are offering to improve their CO2 performance, i.e. tonnes of CO2 per unit GDP growth - was also always going to improve. This is because the marginal unit of output in a fast-growing economy always comes from newer, more efficient plant: the old plant is already flat-out or actually being replaced.

So the improvement they are touting essentially comes for free - rather like the UK's improvement 1990-2000, which came from the dash for gas, as a by-product, not a primary objective.

Aside from scoring points on the world stage (always gratifying), the higher Chinese goal as a major energy importer is fuel security. This alone will drive them towards geater energy efficiency, from which reduced CO2 intensity follows, as night follows day.

For an excellent insight into China's current priorities, have a look at any of their official news sites (if your firewall will let you, they seem to be riddled with dodgy stuff) and the answers are plain enough:

- "food security, energy and resource security, and public health security" are top of the list with climate change;

- then comes the important matter that the July 5 riot in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomus Region is recognised by Russia as "entirely China's internal affair and that no outside forces should interfere"

- finally, a heavy-duty snub to North Korea by bigging-up China's relationship with S.Korea

Well that's what China's thinking; and we should probably all pay attention.



Demetrius said...

If China is dedicated to taking care of itself to this extent, this is not bad news in many ways. However, it is not so good for all those who have allowed themselves to become a dependent on China one way or another.

Mark Wadsworth said...

By China's standards, that all seems quite fair and reasonable.

James Higham said...

Yes, their government site currently carries this.

Letters From A Tory said...

Presumably Saddam Hussein attacking his own people was also just an internal affair that we had no right to intervene in?

Nick Drew said...

Iv'e admitted before knowing less about the Chinese than I do the Russians: but I generally find the former more politically mature & straightforward - others see it differently, I know - & certainly more confident.

(doesn't mean I'd want to live there ...)

Sebastian Weetabix said...

ND, the last thing I would accuse the Chinese of being is "straightforward". It's the wild east out there & you'd better have your wits about you.... they'd sell their grannies for a mess of potage. I once asked a Chinese friend why this was so, and got an interesting response along the lines of "we need to make as much money as possible as quick as we can, because there could be another cultural revolution anytime". There is a culture of dishonesty from top to bottom - they tell bosses what they want to hear, not the truth, from QC supervisors upwards. I wouldn't take anything the Chinese government say on face value.

Nick Drew said...

well at least I got my confession of ignorance in first !

what I meant was, the Chinese view of their own self-interest seems clear-cut and is pursued in a fairly plain, direct fashion

as for telling bosses what they want to hear, and writing as someone who has worked for several US companies in his time ...

*singing* It's the same the whole world over ...

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Come to think of it the US company I worked in was like that too... I never did fit in. A little truth went a very long way!