China Should Be Obligated to Limit Emissions

Published: Thu 17 Dec 2009 11:55 AM
Chinese Public Rejects Argument that China Should not be Obligated to Limit Emissions
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference, China has taken a strong stance. It has refused to make any commitments to limit its emission of climate-changing gasses, arguing that the developed countries alone should make such commitments as their emission levels on a per-capita basis are much higher. The Chinese people, however, reject this view.
In a new poll conducted by in September, an overwhelming 96 % of Chinese said that at the conference in Copenhagen their government should be “willing to commit to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions” as part of an agreement. (Seventy-one percent of Indians concurred.) Seventy-eight percent of Chinese also said that “dealing with the problem of climate change should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs.” Sixty-eight percent would be willing to accept an increase in costs for energy equal to one percent of the GDP. Seventy-seven percent said their government is not doing enough to deal with the problem.
When presented the argument against making such a commitment, a large majority of Chinese reject it. A 2007 BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA poll of 21 countries presented two positions, one of which was the position taken by China and the government of many developing countries:
Because countries that are less wealthy produce relatively low emissions per person, they should not be expected to limit their emissions of climate changing gases.
The counter argument was presented as well:
Because total emissions from less-wealthy countries are substantial and growing, these countries should limit their emissions of climate changing gases.
A resounding 68% majority of Chinese endorsed the second position saying that China should limit its emissions. Limiting the emissions of less-wealthy countries was also the dominant view in Mexico (75%), Kenya (64%), Brazil (63%), Indonesia (54%), the Philippines (49%), and India (33% to 24%), though many Indians (43%) did not have an opinion.
In another poll, an overwhelming majority of Chinese said that developing countries should be willing to commit to limit their emissions if the developed countries would provide assistance. A WPO/CCGA poll from 2006-07 asked the Chinese public and four other developing countries: “If the developed countries are willing to provide substantial aid, do you think the less developed countries should make a commitment to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions?” In this case, 79% of the Chinese endorsed making a commitment to limit emissions as did majorities or pluralities in all of the other developing countries, including a plurality of Indians (48% to 29%).
In sum, contrary to the position assumed by its leaders a clear majority of Chinese are ready to make commitments to limit emissions, even when they here the argument that developing counties should not have such obligations, and with full awareness that this would require personal sacrifices.
Steven Kull

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