The US has done a good job of setting up China as the fall guy for any failure at Copenhagen.

But what do the figures say?

There are a wide range of estimates as to the meaning of China’s pledge to reduce emissions intensity by 40-45% by 2020. US sources tend to represent this as the same as business as usual, while European and Asian analyses suggest it could be worth more than 8.5 gigatonnes of avoided emissions. Forecasting business as usual growth in China’s economy of around 8% per annum, the pledge would pull back emissions in 2020 to 10.7-13.6 gigatonnes, compared with over 21 gigatonnes without constraints.

The US pledge – also compared with business as usual forecasts is worth just 2.7 gigatonnes, reducing business as usual growth from 7.2 to 8.7 gigatonnes, to under 6 gigatonnes (17% less than in 2005).

So, with plenty of caveats about what ‘business as usual’ really means, China is doing something like 3 times more to protect the climate. You might think its unfair to let China compare its emissions with business as usual, rather than an absolute baseline, but that’s what the Kyoto Protocol allowed non-Annex 1 countries to do, and it’s what the US under George Bush sought to do for years. Whats sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander.

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