The Kyoto Protocol: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Depend On Future Of China

March 16, 1998

TROY, N.Y.- China's future energy import needs will dramatically affect the global environment and energy security, says Jon Erickson, assistant professor of economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In a recent article in Science magazine, titled "Who Will Fuel China?" Erickson and co-writer Thomas Drennen of Sandia National Laboratory write, "Any level of climate protection resulting from the greenhouse gas treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, which opened for signature at the United Nations on March 16, will depend on the future of Chinese emissions."

By 2025, China's annual CO2 emissions alone will be 3.2 billion tons carbon, compared to current world CO2 emissions of 6.15 billion tons, the article says.

"Without significantly altering its energy structure, China's primary energy supply will be 68 percent coal and 25 percent oil in 2025," says Erickson. "This carbon intensive development underscores the importance of China's participation in international climate change negotiations." Erickson and Drennen say that substantial research and policy supporting energy efficiency renewable energy technologies would help.

China became a net importer of oil in 1993, and 1997 average net imports are estimated at 800,000 barrels per dayÐtwice 1995 levels. The country's import needs by 2015 could equal current U.S. import demand of over 8 millions barrels per day.

China has even begun to purchase titles to foreign oil fields, including sensitive Middle Eastern sources, Erickson says. Attempts by the Chinese government to develop its own oil supplies have had limited success, and substituting oil for coal is unlikely.

"Assuming foreign investment will rise to meet optimistic nuclear and hydro-electric scenarios, and the considerable environmental challenges of these energy sources are overcome, future hydro and nuclear development would account for less than six percent of primary energy needs by 2025," Erickson says.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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