Warning over huge surge in China carbon footprint level
China's carbon emissions for each member of its population could overtake that of European countries as early as the end of next year, according to a report which shows that the country's carbon footprint is expanding far faster than predicted.
A combination of an infrastructure building spree and the ramping up of carbon-intensive industries after the 2008 financial crisis means China is now being catapulted into the ranks of developed world countries when it comes to per person CO2 emissions.
China already emits more carbon for each person than France and Spain and on current trends will surpass the US in per person emissions as early as 2017, according to the report conducted by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment agency and sponsored by the European Commission.
"Due to its rapid economic development, per capita emissions in China are quickly approaching levels common in the industrialised countries," wrote the authors of the report, Long-Term Trend in Global CO2 Emissions.
"If the current trends in emissions by China and the industrialised countries including the US would continue for another seven years, China will overtake the US by 2017 as highest per capita emitter among the 25 largest emitting countries."
The 40-page report, based on recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research and the latest statistics for energy use and other activities, is the most up-to-date assessment of China's position in global emissions tables.
China overtook the US as the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases in 2007, but has defended its emissions levels by arguing that its carbon footprint was reasonable for a developing country when calculated on a per person basis.
Analysts said the new data reflected not only China's spiralling emissions, but also the fact that, as the emissions of EU countries continued to fall, China was converging with the developed world more quickly than previously appreciated.
As recently as the 2008 Copenhagen Conference, officials had been working on the principle that China's emissions were half those of EU countries and a quarter of US levels. However, those assumptions now appear highly conservative.
China's emissions rose 10pc in 2010 to reach 6.8 tons per person -- compared with 5.9 tons in France; 8.1 tons in the UK and 16.9 tons for the US. As recently as 2000, China was emitting 2.9 tons per person.
"Michael Jacobs, a former special adviser to Gordon Brown on climate change and now a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, said: "These figures are another warning signal that, while both China and Europe are now acting on climate change, it's not happening fast enough to deal with the global problem."
"China has begun to take more aggressive action to slow down its emissions growth," said Mr Jacobs.
Jiang Kejun, of China's Energy Research Institute, the country's leading climate think tank said predictions that China would pass the US in emissions by 2017 wrongly assumed that China's emissions would not begin to slow. (©Daily Telegraph, London)