China\’s carbon cuts

China pledged it would cut its carbon intensity, the measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, by 40 per cent to 45 per cent compared to 2005 levels.

Hurrah!

A deadlock over carbon dioxide emissions targets has developed, with the United States offering only a 17 per cent cut in its emissions, compared with 2005, over the next decade.

Boo!

Nasty, bastard Americans, eh?

However, note that the Americans are actually offering cuts and the chinese are only offering a slowing of a rise in emissions. Prizes will be awarded for those who spot numpties not recognising this point.

China is offering to cut carbon intensity. That is, the amount of carbon emitted (OK, CO2-e actually) per unit of GDP. And that cut in carbon intensity isn\’t really all that much of a heavy target. For carbon intensity drops as an economy develops (and as technology gets better, not quite the same thing). The US for example lowered carbon intensity by 17% over the two decades at the end of the 20 th century. We in the UK lower carbon intensity each and every year…..but by less than economic growth rises, meaning that total emissions continue to rise.

I\’m not saying that the Chinese target is nothing: it\’s a larger fall in carbon intensity than we\’d expect if things just progressed as normal. But it is really simply an acceleration of an already extant process.

The US offer however is absolute cuts in emissions. It might not be what some think necessary, it might be mild compared to what others demand, but it is an absolute cut: not just a slowing in the rate of the rise as China is offering.

So the US is offering a great deal more than China. Anyone think that\’s the way it will be spun?

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