You Go First Carbon Politics Threatens Us All

mage showing iceberg off Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada with meltwater ponds in the foreground. Arctic warming has been associated with a rapid decline in Arctic summer sea ice extent. Image credit- Sandy BriggsBy Stephen Leahy

NY-ÅLESUND, Svalbard, Norway, Jun 15 (IPS)

Political and business leaders may agree in principle that climate change is a serious threat, but there is a startling lack of consensus and a ‘you-go-first’ attitude on taking action, even amongst a small group of high-level decision makers disconnected from their cell phones here in the Arctic.

“We want to reduce China’s CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, but we are a market-driven economy,” Liu Yanhua, China’s vice minister for science and technology, told 30 participants at the Ny-Ålesund Symposium located at a scientific research centre called Kings Bay on the western coast of Spitsbergen Island about 1,200 kilometers from the North Pole.

“Climate change is a matter of economy, of energy,” said Yanhua, a former scientist at the Chinese Institute of Geography.

It is also an issue of generational equity, since at current rates all fossil fuels will be consumed in 50 to 80 years, leaving nothing for future generations, he said.

China’s CO2 emissions have soared 150 percent in the last 20 years, Yanhua acknowledged, and are now the highest of any country, including the United States. China’s carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per unit of production – is 10 times higher than Germany’s and major efficiency improvements are needed, he said. Continue reading