Big Advanced Economies in Need of Fundamental Energy Transformation

A few nations do not depend upon any foreign assistance, because they are highly developed technologically and can draw upon own substantial financial resources. One may find that the emissions of CO2 follows economic development closely in many countries. The basic explanation is population growth and GDP growth— more people and higher life style demands


Take the case of China, whose emissions are the largest in the world, totally speaking (Fig. 11). China was a Third World country up until yesterday.

The sharp increase in CO2:s in China reflects not only the immensely rapid industrialization and urbanization of the last 30 years, but also its problematic energy mix (Fig. 12).

Almost 70% of the energy consumption comes from the burning of coal with an additional 20% from other fossil fuels. The role of nuclear, hydro and other renewable energy sources is small indeed, despite new investments. This makes China very vulnerable to demands for cutting GHG emissions: other energy sources or massive installation of highly improved filters? Relying upon market incentives (Hayek 1991), China wants to maintain high economic growth in the decades to come (de Bruyn 2012; Erikson 2013).

China’s link GDP-CO

Fig. 11 China’s link GDP-CO2: y = 0.703x; R2 = 0.97

Fig. 12 China’s energy consumption. Source Energy Matters

It should be pointed out that several small countries have much higher emissions per capita than China. This raises the enormously difficult problematic of fair cuts of emissions. Should the largest polluters per capita cut most or the biggest aggregate polluters? At COP21 this issue was resolved by the creation of a Super Fund to assist energy transition and environment protection in developing counties, as proposed by economist Stern (2007). But China can hardly ask for this form of foreign assistance. It is true that China energy consumption is changing with much more of renewables ad atomic plants. But so is also demand increasing with new and bigger cars all the time plus increased air traffic on huge new airports. Can China really cut CO2:s with 40% while supply almost 50% more energy power, according to plan?

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