Slippery carbon claims by Julia Gillard
China IS closing down some older coal-fired power plants -- but because they emit REAL pollution, not because of their CO2 emissions. And the replacement plants emit MORE CO2
A NEW row has erupted over the extent of the rest of the world's action to combat climate change after Julia Gillard cited China's closure of "dirty" coal-fired power stations to back her argument that Australia must act to price carbon.
Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt leapt on the comments, accusing the Prime Minister of failing to mention that China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, was experiencing huge growth in emissions, but the Climate Institute's John Connor backed Ms Gillard's remarks.
He said China's action strengthened the argument for Australia to cut its emissions by 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.
Appearing on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, Ms Gillard argued the rest of the world was moving on combating climate change. "There's this image that somehow we're the only ones - simply not true," she said. "You know, China [is] closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one or two weeks. Putting up a wind turbine at the rate of one every hour. They set their own targets by 2020 of reducing carbon pollution by 40 to 45 per cent per unit of GDP," Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard's comments followed closely the words of her climate change advisor Professor Ross Garnaut, who made the point about coal-fire power station closures in China in a recent climate change paper. However, Professor Garnaut went on to say the unsafe and economically inefficient plants were "replaced by larger, and economically and environmentally much more efficient plants".
A briefing to members of the Minerals Council of Australia cited research by economist and Reserve Bank Board member Warwick McKibbin that China's voluntary offer to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020 would see its CO2 emissions rise by 496 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels.
"While China has undertaken substantial efforts to increase renewable energy generation capacity, coal-fired power generation will continue to dominate," the note said.
The International Energy Agency projects that China's forecast new coal-fired power generation capacity (600GW) by 2035 would exceed the current entire generation capacity for the US, EU and Japan combined.
Executive Director of the Australian Coal Association Ralph Hillman said stations were being closed in China largely to address health concerns from their mercury emissions rather than their CO2 emissions.
But Mr Connor said China's actions were consistent with international efforts to limit global warming to 2C.
China's latest five-year plan dictates that carbon pollution per unit of GDP should be cut by 17 per cent. This was part of a long-term target to reduce pollution intensity by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
Mr Hunt said Ms Gillard had talked up China's actions on climate change without mentioning that China, "the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is experiencing huge growth in emissions and this is expected to continue for some time".
"If the Prime Minister wants to talk about China, she should release the figures on China's annual emissions growth for the last five years, and the projections on how much China's emissions are expected to increase by over the next five years," Mr Hunt said.