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The Sleeping Dragon: China’s Role in Climate Change as a Developing Country

The Sleeping Dragon: China’s Role in Climate Change as a Developing Country. Stephen Janasie Aakruti Shah. Stephen Janasie: sjanasie@kentlaw.edu Aakruti Shah: ashah1@kentlaw.edu Prepared for Energy Law and Policy – Chicago-Kent College of Law S2005. Introduction.

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The Sleeping Dragon: China’s Role in Climate Change as a Developing Country

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  1. The Sleeping Dragon:China’s Role in Climate Change as a Developing Country Stephen Janasie Aakruti Shah Stephen Janasie: sjanasie@kentlaw.edu Aakruti Shah: ashah1@kentlaw.edu Prepared for Energy Law and Policy – Chicago-Kent College of Law S2005

  2. Introduction • The international community’s ‘common, but differentiated responsibilities’ approach is unsuitable to the issue of global climate change.

  3. This is best illustrated in the treatment of China as a ‘developing country’ and what that entails.

  4. In order to understand the problem, need to have a understanding of: • History: • History of international environmental law and the theme of common, but differentiated responsibility • Background of Chinese economic, legal, and environmental issues

  5. An in-depth look at the greenhouse gas (GHG) issue • Problem of GHGs in China • Problems with the ‘common, but differentiated responsibilities’ approach (Kyoto)

  6. Potential approaches: • Within the structure of Kyoto • Carbon emissions tax • Tradable credits • Modified CBDR • Separate US/China treaty

  7. History and Background of International Environmental Laws and Treaties • United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment of 1972 • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer of 1987 • Rio • Conference of Parties (COP): Berlin Mandate • COP – 2: Geneva Declaration • COP – 3: Kyoto Protocol

  8. United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment of 1972 • Emergence of the ‘common, but differentiated responsibility’ concept (CBDR) • One of the first attempts to establish varying degrees of responsibility in addressing international environmental issues.

  9. Sustainable Development Concept • Recognized an international responsibility to protect the environment for present and future generations • At this conference, developing countries resisted highlighting environmental issues because they were afraid that would slow down their economic development and limit their sovereignty • They feared that ecological values would take priority at the expense of development

  10. The Montreal Protocol • Considered a breakthrough in international environmental law because of its differential treatment of developed and developing nations. • Article 5.1: • entitles developing nations, who meet certain requirements, to delay compliance with the Protocol's measures by ten years • represents a differential norm that takes into account the way that developed countries have historically been major contributors to ozone depletion.

  11. Multilateral Fund • Represented the first agreement to adopt financing terms as an incentive for developing nations to enter into international environmental agreements • Article 10: • Mandated the creation of a Multilateral Fund, requiring developed nations to create a mechanism that provides financial and technical cooperation, including the transfer of CFC-free technology to the developing world who otherwise had no access to this technology.

  12. CBDR • The creation of this Fund reiterated two premises underlying the developing application of CBDR: • (1) developed states should play a leadership role in global solutions to environmental problems; and • (2) the use of differential standards for developed and developing states is the most equitable approach

  13. Justification for Fund • Developed states have the financial ability to assist developing nations in their compliance with CFC reductions • This coupled with a historical culpability for the ozone layer problem justified the creation of an international fund to help developing states reach Protocol goals

  14. Rio • June 1992 U.N. Conference • One result: adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) • A global agreement addressing climate change.

  15. UNFCCC • Today has been ratified by over 160 nations • The UNFCCC is a flexible convention articulating: • hortatory goals • principles • and general obligations to prevent climate change.

  16. Broad Purposes and Obligations • Like other framework conventions, the UNFCCC contains broad purposes and equally broad obligations. • The UNFCCC is essentially a framework for Annex I Parties' (developed nations) behavior, allowing voluntary efforts by developing countries, like China, to suffice. • In fact, developing countries' obligations are conditional upon effective implementation by Annex I Parties.

  17. CBDR Resurfaces • Another important concession to developing countries was the concept that they would have “common but differentiated responsibilities” based on their historical culpabilities and their “respective capabilities.”

  18. UNFCCC and CBDR • If an international effort is made to reduce GHG emissions, then • developed nations must be subjected to more stringent standards, • and they must contribute significantly to the reduction of GHG emissions in developing nations • even though these nations are not subject to as stringent reduction goals

  19. G-77 Nations • The G-77 nations (developing nations) are only required to • establish national emissions inventories, • report on national programs, and • promote cooperation, sustainable development, and information exchange. • There are no absolute emissions standards placed upon these nations.

  20. China • Recognizing the wealth of concessions for developing countries contained in the UNFCCC, China supported the agreement and took steps toward compliance. • In 1992, China established an expert body, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, to submit proposals and opinions to the government. • However, China remained adamant about the obligations of Annex I Parties.

  21. White Paper • In 1996, China published a White Paper on environmental policy • Restating its position that economic development should be done with environmental protection in mind, but reiterating that it is up to the developed world to clean up its own global warming mess under the UNFCCC. • Thus, China views international environmental cooperation as important, but only insofar as the policies remain respectful of national sovereignty.

  22. Legal Instruments • Five new legal instruments were adopted • Binding: • The Framework Convention on Climate Change • Convention on Biological Diversity

  23. Legal Instruments • Non-binding: • The Rio Declaration • represents a careful balance of the principles considered to be important to the developed and developing countries • A set of 15 Forest Principles • Agenda 21 • road map of actions needed to be implemented in order for states to achieve sustainable development

  24. The Conference of Parties • The Rio convention set up administrative institutions to work on more detailed plans to cope with climate change. • An annual Conference of Parties (COP) was set up to determine what to do. • A Secretariat was created to prepare materials for and manage these annual conferences, the 10th of which took place in Buenos Aires in December, 2004.

  25. Conference of Parties (COP) & the Berlin Mandate • There was widespread concern that Annex I Parties would not be able to achieve even the general emissions reduction goal in the UNFCCC. • After contentious debates at COP-1, the Berlin Mandate was passed • Calling on Annex I Parties to establish specific, legally binding targets and timetables to reduce emissions. • China and India produced a Green Paper to effectively exempt themselves and all other non-Annex I Parties from this new commitment to establish specific, binding reductions.

  26. COP – 2: Geneva Declaration • In April 1996, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) published its pivotal conclusion that the "balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." • Specifically, the Parties endorsed the IPCC's 1996 Report in a conference paper, the Geneva Declaration. • Came to the same conclusion, like the Berlin Mandate, called for legally binding targets and timetables to ensure significant reductions in GHG emissions.

  27. Kyoto Protocol –Addressing the GHG Issue • CBDR rationale again: • Equity in the UNFCCC required a differentiation between countries on the basis of: • Historical responsibility for the problem and • Present capability of addressing it

  28. Goals • Overarching goal of lowering emissions to five percent below 1990 levels by the target date of 2008 to 2012 • The US has a seven percent reduction • The European Union an eight percent reduction • Japan agreed to a six percent reduction of GHGs from 1990 levels

  29. Joint Implementation (JI) • Developed nations wanted alternative mechanisms to achieve emissions reductions. One solution was Joint Implementation (JI). • JI allows Annex I Parties to transfer emissions reduction units (ERUs) among themselves • The European Union wanted a carbon tax instead of a complex emissions trading system

  30. Developing Nations • China and the G-77 remained adamantly opposed to new commitments for developing countries. • Thus, the provision reaffirms developing countries' “CBDR”, "national and regional development priorities," and their desire for increased technological and financial assistance. • But the language of this provision leaves open the possibility of future discussions on increased participation by non-Annex I Parties

  31. Emissions Trading • Article 17 • establishes that there will be emissions trading, the details of which will be established at a subsequent COP • Emissions trading is different from JI, because JI is a project-based transfer of ERUs, while emissions trading is through some sort of market mechanism based on national emissions rates.

  32. Background of Chinese Economic, Legal, and Environmental Issues

  33. Economic Development “The Big Dragon”

  34. China has seen a huge economic growth in the last few decades. • From 1978 to 1996, there was an average annual growth rate of 9.9%. • Since 1996, there has been an average annual growth rate of between 7-8%.

  35. Economic Growth • An extraordinarily large number of people have risen out of poverty. • The number of people living on less than 66 cents per day fell from 260 million people in 1978 to 42 million in 1998. • China has paid for fast economic growth with widespread environmental damage.

  36. Environmental Issues - “The Black Dragon” • Environmental problems facing China dwarf similar issues in most other countries in the world

  37. Population Growth • Many, if not all, of the problems result not only from the pressures of economic growth, but also growth in human population. • 1/5th of the human population is Chinese. • In 2001, population was 1.3 billion. It’s estimated to peak at 1.6 billion in 2050.

  38. Examples of Environmental Issues • Uneven economic growth • Water shortages • Deforestation and desertification • Biodiversity loss • Air and water pollution (acid rain) • Ozone depletion • Global Climate Change

  39. Uneven Economic Growth • Has lead to regionalization of wealth causing large scale movements of displaced workers to urban areas • Resulting in • Overcrowding • Burdens upon infrastructure for sanitation, transportation, and drinking water quality • Has also lead to a concentration of air and water pollution, including acid rain in the industrialized Eastern coast.

  40. Water Shortages • Half the population (700 million) drinks water that does not meet minimum water quality standards. • China has consumed so much water that thousands of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs have been completely drained. • 2/3rd of arable lands are in the North, while 4/5th of water supplies are in the South, leading to destructive water construction projects.

  41. Deforestation and Desertification • In 1994, China had 1.69 million square kilometers of deserts, 2/3rd were natural, and 1/3rd had been caused by human activity. • Global climate changes, as well as poor anti-erosion practices, are primary causes. • Deforestation is so rampant that logging has been banned throughout the country.

  42. Biodiversity Loss • China is the leading offender in the illegal international trade in endangered species. • China also bears a significant portion of the responsibility for the global extinction of endangered species.

  43. Air and Water Pollution (Acid Rain)

  44. 5 of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in China. • An estimated 2 million people die each year in China from air and water pollution. • Airborne particulates in many cities are 2-5 times the maximum concentrations recommended by the World Health Organization. • Death from respiratory diseases is the second leading cause of death in China. • Acid rain affects about 30% of China, and China contributes to over half of the acid rainfall in Japan and 80% in South Korea.

  45. Ozone Depletion • In the Montreal Protocol, there was a 10 year lag time for developing countries to accede to CFC prohibitions. • China, as well as India, also initially resisted acceding to the Montreal Protocol, and China remains the biggest “producer” of CFCs.

  46. Global Climate Change • China will surpass the United States to be the largest emitter of GHGs by approximately 2020. • China’s emissions alone will likely undercut whatever progress is made under the Kyoto Protocol.

  47. Developing World GHG Emissions

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