China’s Climate Accounting Would Set Limits Based on Historical Emissions

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China Pollution Satelite

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China appears to be backing out of global efforts to address climate change.

In a move certain to intensify the pre-Copenhagen debate over greenhouse gas reduction targets, a top China central government think tank this week released a framework for quantifying countries’ historical emissions.

Under the proposed framework, the State Council Development Research Center (DRC) would create a "historic account" of past emissions and use it to benchmark developing countries that have had lower accumulated emissions over time – like China – against countries with higher accumulated emissions, such as the United States. It would then assign emissions "deficits" to countries that have emitted less.

Using this quantitative assessment, countries with emissions "deficits" would get the green light to emit more greenhouse gases, or they could trade emissions credits with countries that have exceeded their allowances.

The release of this plan supports external analysis that China believes it should have the right to continue to develop free from carbon restrictions until its accumulated emissions are on par with industrialized countries.

A recent Brookings Institute report: "Overcoming Obstacles to US-China Cooperation on Climate Change" articulated Beijing’s stance, which included the conviction that: 

Countries should be held responsible not only for their current emissions but also for their cumulative historical emissions, given that greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere over many decades.

This plan is Beijing’s most comprehensive effort to date to both highlight and quantify development inequalities as a justification for releasing China and other developing countries from the greenhouse gas reduction targets that are expected to emerge from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this December in Copenhagen.

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