China Is The Biggest Polluter


Reported in the 15 May 2021 edition of THE WEEK

China is emitting more greenhouse gases than all the developed nations combined, according to a new report by the US-based Rhodium Group. It found that China emitted 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2019. The US was the second-largest emitter at 11%, while India was third with 6.6%.

China’s per capita emissions are still lower than the US’s, however, and on a historical basis, the developed nations are still by far the world’s biggest emitters, because they industrialised earlier.

Moreover, many Western nations “outsource” emissions: in 2013, it was estimated that 13% of the carbon emitted by China was the result of it making goods to export. President Xi has vowed that China’s emissions will peak by 2030, and that it will reach zero net emissions by 2060. However, it remains heavily reliant on coal, with more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants currently in operation.


“China’s per capita emissions are still lower than…” Apart from anything else, it’s the problem of being a country with a big population. If China were split into ten countries, then the picture might be the same in aggregate, perhaps, not. As a big country it can undertake bigger projects than ten smaller countries could each do. On the other hand it can benefit from the economies of scale.

Politically of course it doesn’t want to lose the accelerated growth it is experiencing. It has a finite amount of time before it gets hit with the problem of its ageing population.