3E Intelligence

China’s reaction to the news that is has become the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter underlines that in a globalised world without borders it is a an absurdity to blame individual countries for their share of emissions.

According to Associated Press, the Chinese government criticised developed countries for being “hypocritical” when they criticise China’s greenhouse gas emissions while buying products from its booming manufacturing industry. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry pointed out that the West has outsourced a lot of its manufacturing to China and that therefore the emissions are produced to make products for European and American citizens. He also underlined again that a Chinese citizen emits less than one quarter of an American.

The Chinese are of course absolutely right. In a world that has become “one spaceship”, we all emit not only for ourselves but also for others. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be able to move from a world economy based on competing countries to one “spaceship earth economy” where competitiveness will have been replaced by interdependent cooperation. But what stands in the way of this vision are political and international governance structures which were built in the age of national sovereignty.

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  1. Great point. The issue of embodied energy, and hence embodied emissions in products and systems needs more consideration.

    Using more material or products can mean less energy – for example double glazing or insulation.

    But sometimes more material means more energy, because the embodied energy of the materials is higher than the energy saved.

    Conversely, less material can increase or decrease energy consumption.

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