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.