Thursday, November 20, 2008


With the global economy at the edge of recession, China appears to be turning away from previous pledges to improve its record on environmental protection. In this, China is hardly alone: A climate-change proposal in Europe that a few months ago seemed like a sure thing has now divided the continent because of its anticipated expense, and worldwide, money for the development of renewable energy sources has been drying up.

But the impact of China's pullback from environmental protection efforts could be the most far-reaching. Home to some of the planet's most polluted cities, China last year hit a dubious milestone: It surpassed the United States to become the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its factories release so much toxic waste that they have created black clouds thousands of miles away. Its waterways are no better off -- poisoned with industrial runoff ranging from arsenic to acid.
From the WP. On the other hand, India appears to be moving toward more environmental protection. From Der Spiegel, an interview with India's chief climate treaty negotiator, Shayam Saran:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Saran, when will India oblige itself to start restricting its own CO2 emissions?

Saran: Even though there is no legal obligation on India in this respect, the Prime Minister of India made a commitment that India’s per capita emissions will at no time exceed the average of the per capita emissions of developed, industrialized countries. We have thus accepted a limit on our emissions and at the same time provided an incentive to our partners in developed countries to be more ambitious. The more significant their reductions of emissions, the lower the limit we would need to accept for our own.

(HT) It's anyone's guess what will happen going forward, given what's happened in our economy and our financial and credit markets. How you feel about all of this will depend upon how you weight the relative importance of reducing emissions versus promoting economic development. Perhaps phrasing this as such a stark tradeoff is unfair, since some programs, like India's proposed nuclear power program, may be good for both the economy and the enviromnent, but there clearly remain tradeoffs.

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