China's Power Plant Emissions to Rise 60 Percent by 2017
China's Power Plant Emissions to Rise 60 Percent by 2017

WASHINGTON—Climate-warming emissions from China's power plants—already among the world's worst greenhouse polluters—will rise by some 60 percent in the next decade, a new global database showed on Wednesday.

Four Chinese power companies, including the biggest carbon dioxide emitter, Huaneng Power International, were among the top 10 on the database; there were two each from the United States and Germany and one each from South Africa and India.

The numbers show that despite international talk about cutting down on emissions that spur global warming, these emissions are going to rise steeply for the next 10 years, said David Wheeler of the Washington-based Center for Global Development, a nonpartisan think tank that compiled the database.

“Although our politics seem to be headed toward some new understanding and action here, the investment picture that we see right now … is a continued large-scale commitment to coal-fired production, which is the most intensive in CO2 (carbon dioxide) pollution,” Wheeler said by telephone.

This trend will occur not only in the fast-developing economies of China and India, but also in the United States and to some extent in western Europe, he said.

The database—dubbed CARMA, for Carbon Monitoring for Action, and available online at http://carma.org —lists carbon emissions from 50,000 power plants around the world, with figures for the year 2000, 2007, and five to 10 years in the future, based on published plans.

People walk around Tiananmen Square shrouded with smog, Beijing, China. (China Photos/Getty Images)
People walk around Tiananmen Square shrouded with smog, Beijing, China. (China Photos/Getty Images)

100 CEOS Wield the Power

By 2017, China will far outpace the United States, the current leader in power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, the database found.

While China's future power generation will be less carbon-intensive, getting more electricity for proportionally lower emissions, this comes at an environmental cost, the database's creators said.

China will use more nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse pollution but poses a challenge for safe disposal of spent fuel, and get more electricity from the Three Gorges Dam, which environmentalists say will trap silt, cause erosion and risk turning its reservoir into a pond of industrial chemicals and sewage.

The database was released less than a month before a December meeting of climate experts in Bali, Indonesia, meant to chart a course to cut global warming emissions. It also coincides with intensifying debate in the U.S. Congress over a bill to put mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

Internationally, the U.S. power sector is the top emitter, spewing nearly 2.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually; China follows closely at 2.7 billion tonnes, with Russia at 661 million tonnes, India at 583 million tonnes and Japan at 400 million tonnes. Germany, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and South Korea round out the top 10.

Wheeler noted that the top executives of the 100 biggest power companies worldwide preside over plants that emit 57 percent of all emissions from this sector, giving them extraordinary influence.

“Despite the fact that we talk about national negotiations on this issue … when all is said and done, those who make the decisions about investments and future technologies are people like those 100 CEOs,” Wheeler said. “That's a critical group and I think they should be engaged.”

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