"Carbon intensity" – the new fudge factor

Tricked by carbon intensity

Tricked by carbon intensity

The media is full of headlines praising India and China for agreeing to cut carbon by this percentage or that percentage, but it’s only when you read down that you realise that they are referring to carbon intensity, which is carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP.

So when China says it will cut carbon by 40% by 2020, what it means is that it will actually increase emissions by about 25%, because GDP in developing countries such as China is going through the roof, but which is 40% less than it would have been.

And yet the media seem unable to see through the trick, reporting it as if it’s big news:

INDIA aims to reduce its carbon intensity by 2020 by up to 25 per cent compared with 2005, the country’s Environment Minister has announced, echoing similar commitments by China and the US before the Copenhagen climate change conference.

Jairam Ramesh reiterated India’s refusal to accept legally binding targets for reducing its carbon emissions or to agree to Western demands to set a date for when its emissions would peak. But he did announce a target for India’s unilateral efforts to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide it produces per unit of GDP — known as its carbon intensity — and said that India would show flexibility at the summit.

The announcement was seen as a major shift in India’s negotiating position.

“The Planning Commission has concluded that we can have a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in emission intensity between 2005 and 2020,” Mr Ramesh said in a speech outlining India’s position at next week’s summit.

So whereas countries like the UK have unilaterally committed economic suicide by legislating an 80% reduction in actual emissions by 2050, India and China merely commit to increase emissions, but more slowly.

Read it here.

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