Dirty China is surprisingly clean

China is well known as the world’s top polluter, but surprisingly it also appears to be a top player in clean energy efforts, according to the Vivid Economics report, commissioned by Australia’s Climate Institute and released on Tuesday.

The report compares the total investment in clean energy to the total amount of CO2 produced by a country. With an investment of 25 million Euros, China ranks second only to Britain. Britain and China, respectively good for 21.13 and 10.24 Euros per metric ton of CO2, precede the United States with 3.68 Euros, with Japan clocking 3.10, Australia 1.70 and South Korea 50 cents. On the other hand, these six countries account for just under half of all global CO2 emissions.

Both China and the UK also show up in the world’s top three investors in offshore wind energy.

China promised to cut emissions in half per produced product by 2020 during the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen last year. To live up to this promise China committed to replace 100 small coal-fired power plants with cleaner ones by 2011. On top of this it has also offered millions worth of subsidies for clean energy projects and expectations see a tenfold increase in this over the next decade.

The report also shows that Europe like China is ahead of the game on pollution reduction investment, far outpacing countries such as the US and Australia. But it also warns that none of the countries is on track to meet the reduction targets agreed after last year’s climate summit, with Japan lagging worst of all.

So is China setting the example for other countries? The answer to that is no. While China explores the possibilities of clean energy it focuses at least as heavily on coal, the only energy source it has in abundance. So despite its promising clean energy efforts, China is locked in a coal trap and probably will be for the next decades.

© Jorn van Dooren | www.bitsofscience.org

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