China's per capita emissions nearly as high as Europe's

Jeremy Hance
July 19, 2012

Coal truck in western China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Coal truck in western China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The average person in China emitted 7.2 tons of carbon last year, according to new figures from BL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). This means that the average Chinese citizen is now very close to the average European, who emits 7.5 tons, in terms of annual emissions. Having been named the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2009—usurping the U.S. from its long-held position—China continues to lead the pack with emissions that rose 9 percent in 2011.

The report, which does not incorporate emissions from deforestation and land use, blames a rise in fossil fuel energy and breakneck economic growth for China's rise in emissions. At the same time, emissions in Europe continue to fall (down 3 percent last year) due in part to economic downturn but also to government programs to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Still China's per capita emissions lag far behind the U.S., whose average citizen emits a whopping 17.3 tons per person. In addition, industrialized nations, including Europe, carry the brunt of historical responsibility for global climate change.

But the contemporary blaming game continues to shift. While China's emissions rose 9 percent last year, they fell 2 percent in the U.S. due to high oil prices, a sluggish economy, and a mild winter according to the report. Neither the U.S. nor China has introduced expansive government policies, such as a tax on carbon or cap-and-trade, to bring down national emissions.

Globally the report found that emissions were up 3 percent, hitting a new record of 34 billion tons. Consumption of coal, the world's most carbon intensive energy source, rose 4 percent. These numbers continue to put the world on track for a rise in temperatures this century that could be well above the 2 degrees Celsius goal agreed on by world nations.

On the plus side ,renewable energy (excluding hydropower) accounted for 2.1 percent of energy last year, doubling from 2005 levels.

Top 5 Emitters in 2011

1) China: 29 percent of global emissions
2) U.S.: 16 percent
3) EU: 11 percent
4) India: 6 percent
5) Russia: 5 percent
6) Japan: 4 percent

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 19, 2012).

China's per capita emissions nearly as high as Europe's.