China will be top CO2 emitter “this year or next”

China will become the world's biggest CO2 emitter when it overtakes the US in 2007 or 2008 at the latest, according to the International Energy Agency.

Asked when China would overtake the US, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said it will be “either this year or next year.”

China, where a new coal-fired power station comes online every four days on average, is struggling to keep a check on the environmental consequences of rapid economic growth.

Although the average Chinese still contributes ten times less carbon than the average American, that number is rising together with China’s economy which is growing at 10% a year.

Much of that economy is powered by coal and despite some effort from the Chinese government to invest in renewables and “clean coal” technologies, carbon emissions are rising sharply – in line with respiratory and heart disease among local people.

China remains outside of the Kyoto process and this week led a group of developing countries protesting against the UN Security Council debating the “security threat” posed by climate change.

The US has said it will not sign up to binding carbon reduction targets before developing countries – led by China and India – do so.

Goska Romanowicz

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