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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

Triple Bottom Tuesday>>>Which Countries Should Take the Most Responsibility for Global Warming?

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Picture Source: Pexels

Global warming is the term we use to describe an unusually rapid increase of the world’s surface temperature, and it is a looming threat we are dealing with right now. Global warming is caused by the excessive amounts of greenhouse gases and pollutants that we have expelled into the earth’s atmosphere throughout the past century as countries thrive to develop their economies at the expense of the environment.

However, even though almost every country in the world has contributed to the emissions that cause global warming, it is important to highlight that some nations have an exceptionally higher rate of pollution than others.

China’s excessive pollution

The world’s current top polluters are China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan. These five nations combined account for 60% of the world’s global CO2 emissions in 2019. The most striking fact however, is that China’s CO2 output matches the CO2 output of the next four nations combined.

China is a country that is rapidly developing, and the Chinese government is hellbent on securing China’s position as the world’s largest economy, beating the US outright and claiming its throne. While China’s development is admirable, the trail of pollution they leave behind has had detrimental effects on the environment.

China’s pollution can directly be traced back to their rapid industrialisation and the gigantic state-run companies that spearheaded the initiative. Some of China’s largest companies pollute so much that their net pollution is larger than the net pollution levels of entire nations. “Emissions of numerous state-owned enterprises in the power, steel, cement, oil refining, and other major emitting sectors are equal to those of entire nations,” comments Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air have estimated that the China Baowa Group, the world’s biggest steel maker, expels 211 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is more emissions than Belgium and Austria combined. Saic Motor Corp., China’s leading automobile manufacturer, is estimated to produce 158 million metric tons of CO2 which is similar to the carbon emitted by Argentina. Huaneng Power, one of China’s largest electric power companies, is said to produce 317 million metric tons of CO2 which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions produced by the UK.

However, these figures don’t stand close to the pollution that China’s petroleum sector generates. Sinopec is estimated to produce 733 million metric tons of CO2, which is more than the CO2 emissions of Spain and Canada combined. PetroChina Company Limited is said to produce a massive 881 million metric tons of CO2, which is more than the CO2 emissions of Vietnam and South Korea combined.

This goes to show just how much these companies contribute to global warming. They are a key part of the problem of global warming, but that also makes them key players in the solution to prevent the catastrophic effects of global warming.

These companies could make an immense effect on changing global warming trends if they choose to implement more sustainable and less pollutant technologies. These state-owned enterprises however don’t seem to take sustainability as an urgent priority, as many of them greenwash and downplay the true quantities of greenhouse gases they produce.

China’s Promise

China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, has promised that the nation will become carbon neutral by 2060. However, the country is still adamant on using coal and has commented that they don’t plan to reduce its usage until 2026. China has also pushed against international demands to reduce its usage even though it is a source of energy that causes a lot of air pollution.

Infographic source: Bloomberg

Although China has made attempts to use more sustainable sources of energy for production and manufacturing, and is also a top investor in green energy, greenhouse gas emission levels are still on the rise. Lauri Myllyvirta comments “Emissions have been increasing much faster in 2021, instead of slowing down”.

Nevertheless, he also believes that China can still turn things around. “There is hope that emissions could turn around fast, if energy policy and economic policy pull in the same direction”.

How China Can Lead the Fight Against Global Warming

China has to change their pollution trends soon, because not only is it contributing to the overall looming threat of global warming in the future, but it is also having real time effects on China’s population. It was revealed in a report that China’s annual average concentration of fine particulate matter (which is the sum of all solid and liquid particles, many of which can be harmful such as soot, smoke, and dust) was 57 micrograms per cubic meter in 2017, which was already almost six times what the World Health Organisation deems as an acceptable level. The air pollution levels across China are a major concern for public health as the poor outdoor air quality claims the lives of almost one million people every year.

- Shanghai Picture Credit: Photologic

China must prioritise its citizens health over its global ambitions and make sure they drive down the enormous amounts of air pollution they produce each year. In order to do this, they need to refocus on three of their most pollutant industries.

Energy – China’s thermal power supply contributes to 33% of the countries aggregate CO2 emissions. In order to reduce their emissions in this sector they need to reduce their dependance on coal and dramatically increase the use of clean energy. China is already funding an ambitious project to produce 100 gigawatts of clean energy, and this would be bigger than all of the wind and solar installed in India today.

Steel and construction- construction contributes to 30% of China’s CO2 emissions and steel production contributes to 21% of emissions. These two heavy CO2 producing industries need to make dynamic changes to their production processes to make them more sustainable. The steel industry is already testing newer and more efficient means of heating through hydrogen technology and plans to cut down existing emissions by 30% by replacing old machines which are inefficient.

Picture Credit: Xi Wang

Petrochemicals – this industry is said to contribute to 14% of national CO2 – equivalent emissions. Experts say that the only way to make this industry more sustainable is to slowly move away from them. “China’s oil companies will also have to develop new business opportunities that help them shift away from fossil fuels,” says BloombergNEF analyst Luxi Hong.

China has the potential to be the world leader in innovation and technology in the new dawn of green and sustainable energy, but they need to act fast and change their ways for good. International pressure should mount on China to reduce polluting as well, otherwise it could lead to grave consequences.

October 27th 2021 | 4.30 PM

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