There was a time where China could legitimately stand up and say that they were “cleaner” than everyone else, and use a per capita statistic to back that information up. Over the years though, it has grown tougher because the audience (1) began adjusting for the fact that China had hundreds of millions of farmers who had 0 footprints, and thus China was able to game the numbers a bit and (2) millions were moving to China’s cities every day, and the numbers were naturally rising.
Looking back just a few years, it is clear that this shift was irreversible as the cities of Beijing and Shanghai were throwing up per capita carbon statistics that were equivalent to (or surpassed) many of the world’s other metropolises, and in a recent article entitled China population to become world’s biggest polluters, the authors lay out what can be expected as China continues to urbanize:
China’s carbon emissions for each member of its population could overtake that of Britain as early as the end of next year, it has been revealed.
Not just its urban residents, but China’s average per capita footprint will surpass Britain’s. Which will put China in a very interesting position in years to come as it negotiates at the international stage as a peer on the issues faced.. rather than as a little brother in need of time to develop.
The sheer speed and scale of growth in China’s carbon emissions threatens to call into question the credibility of the country as the de facto leader of the developing world in international climate negotiations, with India still only emitting 1.5 tons per person.