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close this book Boiling Point No. 31 - August 1993
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All the Coal in China

by Nicholas Lenssen, a senior researcher and the author of Worldwatch Paper 111, "Empowering Development: the New Energy Equation".

In the popular literature of global warming, China has received only passing mention. After all, since 1950, it has been the industrial countries of the West and former Soviet bloc that were responsible for 79% of the fossil fuel-derived emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. But in the future this proportion is expected to shift dramatically. Future growth is expected to come more from China and other developing countries than from all the industrial nations combined.

Carbon emissions in China have increased 65 % in the past decade, largely due to a sharp rise in its burning of coal. This boosted the country's share of global carbon emissions to 1 1% - still less than its share of global population. And China still emits only half as much carbon as the United States, and only one-ninth as much per capita. But this is already more than the total amount generated by Russia, and in China the real boom may be just beginning.

It is now apparent that redirecting China's energy economy may be as important to the global atmosphere as changing those of the United States and Europe.

China's leaders don't share this view. They readily dismiss the notion that concern over global warming should alter their energy system largely based on the Stalinist model of production quotas, enormous government investments, and subsidized prices, which result in gross economic inefficiencies. China already produces more energy than Saudi Arabia and is the world's largest producer of coal - accounting for 25% of global output.

China has an enormous potential to draw on solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy resources. Western countries are increasingly pursuing these options as technological advances make them more attractive. They will become more persuasive when they include more substantial steps towards renewable, non polluting energy sources, compliance with stringent targets to reduce carbon emissions and the pursuit of a less energy intensive lifestyle.

Ed Note: As our readers will know, China is actively involved in the development of improved domestic stoves, both coal and wood burning and for cooking and space heating. As reported in BP30 it has produced 129 million improved stoves which have gone into 58% of rural households.


The fourth meeting of HEDON will be held on 4th 5th September at the University of Twente, Holland. The policy paper setting out HEDON's position, its relationship with other northern and southern SHE organizations and its priority concerns will be presented for approval. Paul Hassing of DIGIS, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands will introduce a discussion on ESMAP and donors perspectives of household energy projects.

Other subjects for discussion will be field manuals of fuel economy of stoves; commercialization of rural stoves; joint projects; HEDON and a developing country partner. Details from: K K Prasad, Woodburning Stove Group, Eindhoven University of Technology, Postbox 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Fax: 3140 464151.