The announcement by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to the Popular Congress that Chinese economic growth is likely to fall from 9.2 last year to only 7.5 per cent in 2012 has immediately led to a sharp decline of the shares of the world`s mining companies that anticipate lower Chinese production of steel, copper, aluminium etc.
China has become the world`s biggest C02 emitter country and is likely to remain so in the future whatever evolution of its GDP. But lower economic growth will slow down the rise of C02 emissions and make it easier for China to become more “climate-friendly”, one of the declared objectives of Chinese economic policy.
Of course, Chinese GDP forecasts have regularly proved too prudent. But the trend towards slower growth seems irreversible. The era of two-digit growth rates belongs to the past. Economic growth should progressively descend to no more than 6 per cent annually which – for a country with an almost stable population – corresponds to an equivalent rise of living standards.
At an assumed 6 per cent annual GDP increase China should be able to contain the annual increase of emissions below 3 per cent annually if it pursued a vigorous promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energies. But this will require a resolute effort by the government and business.
At the December 2011 Climate Conference in Durban China has agreed to negotiate an international climate compact until 2015 to enter into force after 2020. Lower economic growth, higher energy efficiency and wider use of renewable and nuclear energies should enable China to take on board more ambitious commitments for green house gas emissions and achieve high living standards with much lower per capita emissions than either USA or Europe.
That is the vital challenge for China and Humanity for the 21st century.
Author : Eberhard Rhein