Who Will Take the Heat? - Confidential Instructions: People's Republic of China
You are a high-ranking diplomat representing the Chinese government. Your country has the largest population in the world, 1.3 billion people. China's economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world, but most Chinese people are still very poor, earning less than $2.00 a day.
Your government is controlled by the Communist Party, which came to power at the end of a long civil war in 1948. The Communist Party leadership sets the country's goals and policies. The Prime Minister and the State Council lead the ministries and local governments. The government also controls many economic activities, including land use and energy use.
The Party's leaders want China to become a richer and more powerful country. Since the late 1970s, the government has encouraged private investment and private profit, and the country has experienced an economic boom. Many farmers have migrated to China's coastal cities, where there is a growing middle class but a shortage of jobs. To combat the poverty that remains, the Party and the government plan to continue developing China's natural resources to promote manufacturing and international trade, and to increase the number of available jobs.
THE ROLE OF CHINA IN GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Because coal is such a significant source of carbon, China is the world's second-largest carbon emitter (China emitted roughly 760 million tons of carbon in 2000). But when you divide up China's emissions among the country's population of nearly 1.3 billion people, each person in China was responsible for only 0.6 metric tons of emissions.
In contrast, the U.S., the biggest emitter, is putting more than 1.5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. That's more than double China's emissions. And because the population of the U.S. is so much smaller than the population of China, and Americans are so much richer than the Chinese, each person in the U.S. was responsible for 5.7 tons of emissions—nearly ten times the number for each Chinese person.
WHAT CHINA IS DOING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
If China tries to do much more than it is already doing to limit the growth of its greenhouse-gas emissions, it will deprive hundreds of millions of poor people the opportunity to improve their lives. Electric power and adequate transportation are basic necessities for any industrial society. China's families need more energy to light their homes and to power their refrigerators, telephones, and computers. They need cars and other forms of transportation to free them to take jobs in areas farther from their homes and to travel for personal needs. Today, China's families use very little electricity and have very little access to home communications or automobiles compared to people in many other countries.
Taking these measures into account, experts expect China's carbon emissions to grow from 760 million tons/year in 2000 to 1.8 billion tons/year in 2015. China can only commit to keeping its emissions below 1.8 million tons/year in 2015 if it receives financial help from the U.S. and other rich countries, plus investments and new technologies from businesses. If you get financial help from the U.S., investments in your energy and transportation sectors from business, and help in public education from the environmental movement, you can agree to limit China's emissions to 1.6 billion tons/year in 2015. Limiting China's emissions any more than that would require too much sacrifice from China's people.
WHY THE U.S. NEEDS TO DO MORE
What is at stake here is a basic issue of fairness. The U.S. is responsible for more of the greenhouse-gas problem than anyone else. It has more money to deal with the problem than anyone else. It has signed an international agreement committing it to take action. The U.S. simply has no excuse not to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by a substantial amount.
As China's representative, you want the U.S. to agree to bring its emissions down to 1.4 billion tons in 2015. This would be a reduction of 9 percent from the 2000 emissions of 1.53 billion tons. The U.S. can easily achieve this goal by:
STRATEGY FOR ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS
To achieve these goals, you should: